An analysis of consumers' knowledge and perceptions in relation to genetically engineered (GE) Cotton : marketing and utility
Cotton makes up a majority of the world’s fiber market, with genetically engineered (GE) cotton the current staple of the US agricultural landscape. With GE cotton’s overall acceptance for US farmers and manufacturers, it is of concern that the majority of literature concerning GE crops primarily compares negative attitudes towards GE food crops in stricter economies such as the European Union. Due to the inadequate literature regarding both the market advantages and consumer perceptions of GE cotton specifically, this study was conceived to provide marketers with a baseline analysis of the factors that affect US consumers’ current attitudes (knowledge, risk perceptions, etc.) regarding GE cotton. Multiple regression analyses were used for our models which measured purchase intentions towards GE cotton and perceived risks of GE cotton based on both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Paired and single t-tests were performed to predict the current positioning of GE cotton as a marketable alternative to organic and conventional cotton, and to determine which institutions consumer’s trust most for information on the risks and benefits of GE cotton. Our studies showed that while knowledge of cotton and agriculture is low, GE cotton was regarded more positively than conventional cotton with the potential to improve in consumer’s opinions. According to our findings, by efficiently communicating the benefits of GE cotton through trusted channels of communication (i.e. scientists, consumer organizations, the media), particularly addressing ethical concerns, policy regulation, and how the product is useful to the consumer individually, GE cotton could become a comparative market alternative to organic, at a greater available supply.