Consumer perception and preference towards genetically modified (GM) foods: bibliometric evidence and policy imperatives.

Abstract

Background: Genetically modified (GM) foods could be a promising option to reduce the dependence of the agri-food system on conventional means of crop improvement. However, the safety of GM food remains a concern, in addition to the perceived and real risks to environment. The opinion about scientific evidence among researchers, policymakers and government regulators on promotion of GM foods for consumers differ. This study presents the trends emerging from research outputs on consumer perception and preference for GM foods and policy prescriptions for enabling the consumption. Scope and Approach: The study mainly focused on (1) exploring the publication trends, geographic focus of research and a comprehensive review on the consumers' perception of and preference to GM foods, (2) identifying research hotspots and emerging genetically modified organisms (GMO) research themes, (3) assessing the integrated nature of GMO research, and (4) suggesting policy prescriptions on challenges and way forward. Bibliometric analyses have been performed using the Web of Science (WOS) database sourcing literature from 1981 to 2021 and analyzed the final sample of 543 publications using BibExcel and VOSviewer visualization software tools. The search strategy utilized the topic basis search of phrases related to GM food preference and perception. Key Findings and Conclusions: The search query retrieving 543 journal articles showed an increasing trend in publications on consumer's response towards GM foods. Thematic analysis revealed a strong interlinkage of GMOs research with 'agriculture' and 'food science technology'. Consumers' positive response is largely influenced by the decision of the governments to ban or approve the GM crops cultivation. Similarly, the public support increases when the potential benefits of the technology are well articulated, consumption increases with a price discount, people's trust on the government and belief in science increases with a positive influence by the media. Mapping of the retrieved articles showed the top four recurrent keywords: GMOs, biotechnology, attitudes and acceptance. Europe and the USA are the first region and country, respectively, in terms of the number of active institutions per research output, per capita GDP publication and citations per article. The National Natural Science Foundation of China, followed by the National University of Malaysia are the top fundraisers for research on GM food consumption, perceptions and attitudes. Although research outputs on GM food consumer's acceptance and preferences are increasing, a majority of publications came from developed nations. Thus, intensive research is yet to be carried out in developing countries to produce a genetically modified food product with superior properties and substantial equivalence with no significant side-effects. We suggest research-, agri-food industries-, and society-oriented policies needed to be implemented by the stakeholders to ensure the safety of GM food products, encourage consumer-based studies, and increase public awareness towards these food products.

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