Risk Analysis

Intervening Effects of Knowledge, Morality, Trust, and Benefits on Support for Animal and Plant Biotechnology Applications

Journal Article

Data from a regional Southwest telephone survey in the United States (N= 432) were used to examine the intervening effects of knowledge, morality, trust, and benefits on support for animal and plant biotechnology applications. Results showed that perceptions of agricultural biotechnologies varied by the two applications—animals and plants. Respondents reported higher opposition to the genetic modification of animals, which is consistent with prior research. Results also indicated that morality and perceived benefits directly affected support for both animal and plant applications, but trust and knowledge only had indirect effects. Morality and perceived benefits accounted for most of the variance explained among the intervening variables. The effects of trust were mediated through perceived benefits. The effects of knowledge on support were mediated primarily through trust. The influence of sociodemographic and consumer behavior variables varied by application. Results lend support to several theoretical notions. First, the significance of perceived benefits supports that there is an inverse relationship between benefits and risks. Second, moral objections may outweigh perceived benefits for specific applications, and the genetic modification of animals is deemed to be more morally unacceptable than the genetic modification of plants. These findings demonstrate the need to understand more thoroughly the moral and ethical issues surrounding novel technologies. Third, this research supports the claim that trust is not a powerful predictor of perceptions of technological products, which is contrary to most risk perception research.

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