Mad cows, mad corn and mad communities: the role of socio-cultural factors in the perceived risk of genetically-modified food
The rapid globalization of the world economy has increased the need for a knowledge base of reliable socio-cultural differences in perceptions, values and ways of thinking about new food technologies. Awareness of socio-cultural differences is important because collaborative efforts to deal with food hazards presuppose some understanding of where, how and why the viewpoints of various stakeholders may differ. In the present paper factors that influence public perceptions of genetically-modified (GM) food are discussed, with a special focus on the unique circumstances of populations in the USA, Europe and developing countries. It is argued that effective communication and decision making about the risk of GM food depends critically on understanding how socio-cultural groups differ in their values and in the way they deal with the risks and benefits of new technologies. The implications of psychological aspects of perceived risk (including the roles of qualitative dimensions of risk, world views and trust) for public acceptance of new food technologies are highlighted.