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Consumer perceptions of genetically modified foods: a mixed-method approach

Sarah Lefebvre (Department of Marketing, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, USA)
Laurel Aynne Cook (Department of Marketing, WVU College of Business and Economics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA)
Merlyn A. Griffiths (Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 25 January 2019

Issue publication date: 8 February 2019




This paper aims to examine consumers’ opinions and behavioral intentions toward foods labeled as containing genetically modified (GM) (transgenic) ingredients across plant and animal-based categories. In light of marketplace changes (i.e. labeling requirements), we explore behavioral measures based on labeling options.


Three studies, one online projective survey using a convenience sample of consumers and two experiments conducted with Amazon mTurk adult US participants, are included.


Consumers have negative associations with GM products vs non-GM and are more likely to purchase unlabeled GM products. GM products may offer positive economic, societal and environmental benefits. However, the need for labeling overshadows these benefits and presence of GM labeling increased avoidance. Furthermore, changes in product opinion mediate consumers’ purchase intention and willingness to pay.

Research limitations/implications

GM labeling negatively influences consumers’ opinions and behavioral intentions. This is important for legislators and marketers concerned with counter-labeling effects (e.g. Non-GMO Project Verified).

Practical implications

Debates on efficacy of labeling, inclusion disclosure of ingredients, short-term risks and long-term implications are ongoing globally. Consumer reception and purchase intention can only be changed through governmental and corporate transparency.

Social implications

Widespread misinformation about GM foods, presence in our food supply, impact on health, economy, environment and the marketplace still exists. The findings reflect consumers’ responses to changes proposed by the 2016 National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard legislation.


With the paucity of research on consumer response to the release of a GM animal product into the food supply, this work breaks new ground as the first to examine the impact of disclosure of GM animal-based food type.



Lefebvre, S., Cook, L.A. and Griffiths, M.A. (2019), "Consumer perceptions of genetically modified foods: a mixed-method approach", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 113-123.



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