Results from the CADE-GENTECH project are used to demonstrate that current practices of communication about food biotechnology are ill founded. In Study 1, leading European biotechnology experts were questioned about the communication strategies planned by their organizations. The respective assumptions about attitude structure and change are identified through content analysis and interpreted in terms of established social psychological models. The majority of experts seem to assume a multiattribute utility model of attitude formation and a corresponding hierarchy-of-effects model of attitude change. In Study 2, 2000 consumers from Denmark, Germany, Italy, and the UK participated in an attitude survey. Results indicate that consumers' beliefs about the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods are not organized according to the characteristics of the actual attitude object. Rather, they are embedded into a system of general attitudes from which they derive as instances. In Study 3, 1650 consumers from Denmark, Germany, Italy, and the UK participated in attitude change experiments. Three strategies from Study 1 were tested against a control group for their ability to change consumer attitudes. No attitude change occurred. Rather, results indicate that all strategies had a uniform attitude activation effect that significantly decreased consumers' preferences for genetically modified foods as compared to the control group. It is concluded that direct product experience may be the only possibility to establish unbiased attitudes towards genetically modified foods.
Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Corporate and Marketing Communications, 2000