Risk Analysis

Trust, Confidence, Procedural Fairness, Outcome Fairness, Moral Conviction, and the Acceptance of GM Field Experiments

Journal Article

In 2005, Swiss citizens endorsed a moratorium on gene technology, resulting in the prohibition of the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops and the growth of genetically modified animals until 2013. However, scientific research was not affected by this moratorium, and in 2008, GMO field experiments were conducted that allowed us to examine the factors that influence their acceptance by the public. In this study, trust and confidence items were analyzed using principal component analysis. The analysis revealed the following three factors: “economy/health and environment” (value similarity based trust), “trust and honesty of industry and scientists” (value similarity based trust), and “competence” (confidence). The results of a regression analysis showed that all the three factors significantly influenced the acceptance of GM field experiments. Furthermore, risk communication scholars have suggested that fairness also plays an important role in the acceptance of environmental hazards. We, therefore, included measures for outcome fairness and procedural fairness in our model. However, the impact of fairness may be moderated by moral conviction. That is, fairness may be significant for people for whom GMO is not an important issue, but not for people for whom GMO is an important issue. The regression analysis showed that, in addition to the trust and confidence factors, moral conviction, outcome fairness, and procedural fairness were significant predictors. The results suggest that the influence of procedural fairness is even stronger for persons having high moral convictions compared with persons having low moral convictions.

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