Japan, Russia, South Korea and countries that are members of the European Union require that genetically modified food products be labeled accordingly. (Li, Curtis, McCluskey, and Wahl, 2002, paraphrased) in fact, it is reported that China along with 160 other countries have signed the 2000 Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, stated to include a requirement for labeling of GM products.
VI. Effects of Culture on Perception of Consumers Relating to Genetically Modified Foods
The work of Finucane (2002) entitled: 'Mad Cows, Mad Corn and Mad Communities: The Role of Socio-Cultural Factors in the Perceived Risk of Genetically Modified Food" published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society" states that the "rapid globalization of the world economy has increased the need for a knowledge base of relatable socio-cultural differences in perceptions, values and ways of thinking about new food technologies." (Finucane, 2002) Finucane (2002) states additionally that the awareness of the socio-cultural differences in important "because collaborative efforts to dealt with food hazards presuppose some understanding of where, how and why the viewpoints of genetically modified (GM) food are discussed, with a special focus on the unique circumstances of populations in the U.S.A., Europe, and developing countries."
Finucane goes on to relate that effective risk communication and decision making, "in any domain...depend on understanding public perceptions of risk. And understanding public perceptions of risk depends critically on understanding the socio-cultural factors involved." (2002) Understanding risks traditionally has "...often involved calls for better technical analysis and expert oversight via small centralized groups charged with creating uniformity and rationality in highly technical areas of risk management. Proponents of this approach argue that an expert group is needed to ensure regulations are based on 'sound science' and effectively reduce significant risks at reasonable costs." (2002) However, according to Finucane this approach "reflects the traditionally narrow view of risk which customarily defines risk as "the change of inquiry, damage or loss." (2002)
Social scientists are reported to have "rejected this notion of 'real' or 'objective' risk and argue instead that risk is inherently subjective" and that "risk cannot be measured 'out there' independent of our minds and cultures." (Finucane, 2002) Instead risk is stated to be a "social construct meaning different things to different individuals." (Finucane, 2002)
Finucane reports that following "several decades of psychometric research" that it has been demonstrated that "public conceptions of risk are complex and guided by qualitative features of hazards, or what could be called the 'personality' characteristics of hazards." ( 2002) Stated is that there are two primary qualitative dimensions that appear to be drivers of risk perceptions and which include:
(1) Unknown risk; and (2) Dread risk. (Finucane, 2002)
The unknown risk factor is stated to represent the extent to which a hazard is "unknown, unobservable, unfamiliar and has delayed consequences." (Finucane, 2002) the dread risk factors is stated to represent the extent to which a hazardous activity or technology is seen as dreaded, uncontrollable, fatal, not equitable, high risk to future generations, not easily reduced, involuntary and has catastrophic potential." (Finucane, 2002)
It is important to understand that the use of genetically modified foods and crops "presents several distinct benefits to developing countries." (Finucane, 2002) for example, areas that are "remote and disadvantage rural areas" and that are characterized by unsuitable soil, water, topography and labor endowments" will realize benefits from GM crops because they are less dependent on "hard-to-get hard-to-manage packages of purchased chemical inputs." (Finucane, 2002) in additional environmental benefits are realized from a reduction of the use of pesticide due to the increase in herbicide- and pest-resistant GM varieties" due to a reduction in pesticide run-off into the surface and groundwater which results in a reduction in the need for tillage. The third reason is that natural rural ecosystems "would be under less pressure from population-linked expansion of land area devoted to low-productivity crop farming and livestock grazing." (Finucane, 2002)
Finally, a benefit will be realized to the health of humans in these areas since micronutrient rich crops are made possible including rice enhanced with Vitamin a and increases in the productivity of farming will serve to boost the production of food and lower the food prices for staple foods in poor countries resulting ultimately in an increase in food consumption and an increase in non-food goods among poorer communities.
Finucane (2002) states that social trust or the "willingness to rely on the policies and decisions of agencies and their employees" has been found to be "important to the perception of environmental risks and to the acceptance of emerging technologies and environmental management practices." (Finucane, 2002) Culture has also been found important for determining "the values salient to individuals judging risk and its acceptability" (Finucane, 2002) and this has been studied at length by researchers and this element to some extent is highlighted in the work of Sarah Arroyo as she speaks of the 'children of the revolution' as children are born into today's world full of technology and take this for granted because it is inherently present in their lives and in the world's society.
Genetically modified food products were unheard of several generations ago and because of this genetically modified foods are questioned and held as suspect by those who are accustomed to foods that were grown on the farm or in the backyard garden while they were children and which were the same food products that had been grown for many hundreds and thousands of years and grown in the same manner with little changing except possibly the use of pesticides and fertilizer growth products. These were foods that were subject to the same blights or the same positive or negative outcomes depending on the weather and the pests that were either present or alternatively were not present as the foods grew in the fields.
Arroyo also notes that the children of the revolution tend to be apathetic and lack the drive to critically question authorities while at the same time lack any attachment to those authorities and it appears that as noted by Rickert and related in the work of Arroyo that today's youth, even while exposed to critical pedagogical practices have not become "engaged" nor have they become "liberated" individuals and certainly are not what could be considered to be "politically engaged social critics." (date unknown)
Summary and Conclusion
Genetically modified foods are receiving acceptance or lack of acceptance in societies throughout the world upon the basis of cultural beliefs, beliefs held among certain societal groups, and even upon the basis of whether the additional food products are needed and to the extent to which the society is in need of more and better growing food products. Naturally, this type of technology is better received in countries where individuals are hungry as there is less in the way of questioning of the nutritional value or safety of the foods because the simple presence of these foods is assurance enough to starving populations. The theme that runs throughout the literature reviewed in this work is that individuals throughout the world are to a great extent unaware of the facts surrounding genetically modified food products with many individuals who have consumed these food products fully believing that they have not consumed genetically modified foods. While genetically modified food products are liable to contain the same in the way of antinutrients, allergens and toxins as typical food products it is understood that there is a variability in these elements in genetically engineered foods therefore, controls and testing on these food products are stringent and in many countries throughout the world the foods are under a requirement to be labeled accordingly. However, one must wonder how many individuals throughout the world thoroughly read the labels attached to the foods that they purchase in the grocery store and then prepare and consume. Because those in today's society historically and traditionally did not have the consideration of genetically modified foods when purchasing and preparing food products, there is a failure of the general population to critically examine this issue relating to food products and for the most part this study has shown that people fail to make this examination in their purchase and consumption of food products.
Finucane, Melissa L. (2002) Mad Cows, Mad Corn and Mad Communities: The Role of Socio-Cultural Factors in the Perceived Risk of Genetically Modified Food. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2002, 61.
Genetically modified Organisms: Consumers, Food Safety and the Environment. Vol 2 of the FAO ethics services. Organization of the United Nations. Food & Agriculture Organization 2001.
Hossain, Ferdaus, and Onyango, Benjamin (2004) Products Attributes and Consumer Acceptance of Nutritionally Enhanced Genetically Modified Foods. International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol. 28,…