GM Foods in China

April 8/Agriculture Business Week -- A study from Dunedin, New Zealand, sought "to investigate perceptions of food distribution gatekeepers in China regarding likely acceptance of genetically modified (GM) foods by Chinese consumers. It also aimed to consider policy implications for food exporting countries."

"Design/methodology/approach: An exploratory approach using in-depth interviews was adopted. Key informants of a sample of 20 companies in five main commercial centers in the People's Republic of China and in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region were interviewed. In addition, two interviews were conducted with a key government official and a professor at a leading agricultural university in order to provide details of Chinese government policy.

"According to gatekeepers, Chinese consumers currently have ambiguous views of GM food products. It is concluded that Chinese consumers are likely to accept GM foods provided there are consumer benefits, a price advantage, and credible governmental information concerning safety of GM foods."

"Research limitations/implications: Chinese government policy is to take advantage of a window of opportunity provided by markets such as Japan and Europe, which presently prefer to import non-GM food; at the same time, China is developing full potential to grow GM crops just as soon as external market conditions change. Current barriers to export of GM food products to China are likely to be short-term," wrote J.G. Knight and colleagues, University of Otago.

The researchers concluded, "Originality/value: This paper provides an insight into how gatekeepers in the food distribution channel in China view GM foods, and how they believe Chinese consumers will react to the introduction of such foods."

Knight and colleagues published their study in British Food Journal ("Chinese Gatekeeper Perceptions of Genetically Modified Food. British Food Journal, 2009;111(1):56-69).

For more information, contact J.G. Knight, University of Otago, Dept. of Mkt, Dunedin, New Zealand.

From the April 13, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition