European, US views on cloning differ: study

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Not all consumers share the same attitudes toward animal cloning, but research from Kansas State Univ. professor of agricultural economics Sean Fox indicates Americans may be more accepting of consuming cloned animal products than Europeans.

A lot of Fox's research focuses on consumer attitudes toward food safety. He worked with Shonda Anderson, a recent master's graduate in agricultural economics, Durango, Colo., to uncover consumer attitudes on cloned animals. Anderson now works as a marketing manager at the National Beef Packing Company in Kansas City, Mo.

"We were interested in finding out how different groups of consumers react to the possibility of consuming products that were derived from cloned animals," Fox said. "We were also interested in how those reactions differed between countries, particularly in the United States and Europe."

Fox and Anderson surveyed K-State undergraduates in agriculture, English and sociology classes. They also surveyed agriculture undergrads at University College Dublin in Ireland and Ecole Superieure d'Agriculture in Purpan, France. The survey asked participants about their likelihood of buying and eating meat and other products from cloned animals.

Findings include:

  • Americans were more accepting of cloned products than Europeans.
  • Students in Ireland and France were less likely to consume cloned products compared to K-State students.
  • Sociology and English students at K-State were less likely to consume cloned products compared to the agriculture students.
  • Participants were more likely to consume cloned products after learning that both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority had stated that cloned animal products pose no safety risk.

More of the European students were concerned about cloning from an ethical and moral perspective, while American students cited food safety concerns. The strength of opposition to cloning was much stronger for those who morally opposed cloning than for those who opposed it for food safety concerns, Fox said.

Women were less likely to purchase cloned products while people familiar with science were more accepting of cloned products, the survey revealed.

"It will be interesting to see how big an impact the messages of groups campaigning for or advocating against the concept of cloning will have on consumers, versus how big an impact that scientific information from a university like K-State will have," Fox said. "Or, if people have access to both messages, which they choose to believe."

Survey results can't be generalized across any large population, Fox said but they do offer insight into American and European views toward food technology. Fox and Anderson are now working on a similar study in China and Honduras.

"Results suggest a significant number of people do have concerns about cloning from an ethical and moral perspective," Fox said. "That will be very relevant if these products come to market and are labeled as such because we would expect to see a significant number of people avoiding them."

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