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Chinese gatekeeper perceptions of genetically modified food

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this study is to investigate perceptions of food distribution gatekeepers in China regarding likely acceptance of genetically modified (GM) foods by Chinese consumers. It also aims 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 centres 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. Findings ‐ 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. 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.

Keywords: China; Food products; Genetic modification; Risk management

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-01-25

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