Technical Bulletin No. (TB-1903) 34 pp

April 2003

The Effects of Information on Consumer Demand for Biotech Foods: Evidence from Experimental Auctions

Consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology. This bulletin presents empirical evidence on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods based on the presence or absence of labels advising that the food was prepared with the aid of biotechnology. The authors designed and conducted an experimental auction to elicit consumers' willingness to pay for "genetically modified" (GM)-labeled and standard-labeled foods under different information regimes. The evidence gathered for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labeled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. While gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods, information from interested parties and third-party (independent) sources was found to have a strong impact.

Keywords: biotech, biotechnology, bioengineering, food labels, auctions, experimental economics, willingness to pay, labeling policy

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Last updated: Friday, April 04, 2003

For more information contact: Abebayehu Tegene, Wally Huffman, Matthew Rousu, and Jason F. Shogren