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Attitudes towards genetically modified animals in food production

Lynn J. Frewer (Food and Society Group, Centre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
David Coles (Food and Society Group, Centre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Louis-Marie Houdebine (Reproduction and Developmental Biology Unit, Institut National de la Récherche Agronomique, Jouy-en-Josas, France)
Gijs A. Kleter (RIKILT – Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 29 July 2014




Food products developed using genetically modified (GM) animals may soon be introduced in Europe and beyond. Their successful commercialisation depends on consumer acceptance, and so it is timely to review the existing literature in this respect. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


A systematic review identified 42 English language peer reviewed papers assessing public opinion of GM animals associated with food production. Thematic analysis was applied to the results to identify and explain consumer attitudes.


Publication peaked in 2004, and declined thereafter. European consumers were less accepting of GM animal technology than the US and Asian consumers, although the latter reported more ethical concern. Risk and benefit perceptions, ethical concerns (e.g. related to animal welfare) may explain negative consumer attitudes towards animals in food production.

Research limitations/implications

There is a lack of data on consumer attitudes to GM animals applied to food production, in particular in relation to consumers in emerging economies and developing countries. This is problematic as applications of GM animal products are about to enter the market.

Practical implications

There is a need to track changes in public opinion as GM food production animals are further developed. The introduction and commercialisation of applications with specific characteristics may further shape consumer attitudes.

Social implications

Methods need to be developed to involve consumers and other stakeholders in shaping future applications of agri-food applications of GM animals.


The review collates existing quantitative and qualitative knowledge regarding the drivers of consumer attitudes towards GM animals used in food production using systematic review methodology.



The research reported here has been funded as part of the European Commission contract 226465, PEGASUS, Public Perception of Genetically modified Animals – Science, Utility and Society, funded by the European 7th Framework Programme, and by generous support from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovation's Knowledge Base (KB) Programme. The authors would like to thank Nikki Parker for help with preparing the manuscript.


J. Frewer, L., Coles, D., Houdebine, L.-M. and A. Kleter, G. (2014), "Attitudes towards genetically modified animals in food production", British Food Journal, Vol. 116 No. 8, pp. 1291-1313.



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