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Perception of the risks and benefits of Bt eggplant by Indian farmers

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Several researchers—most notably Lennart Sjoberg and his colleagues—have proposed that the moral aspects of risk provide a better explanation of risk perception than the psychometric paradigm or Cultural Theory, neither of which accounts for moral concerns. This study is possibly the first to assess empirically the perception of the risks and benefits of a transgenic food crop—transgenic Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis ) eggplant—by farmers in a developing country such as India. It also aims to assess if the moral aspects of risk figure in Indian farmers' perception of Bt eggplant and if economic benefits outweigh perceived risks. To answer the research questions, a scenario was used to elicit perceptions of Bt eggplant among 100 eggplant farmers in the state of Maharashtra in India. The findings indicate that economic benefits, safety concerns, and accountability are most salient to Indian farmers' perception of the risks and benefits of Bt eggplant. Significantly, none of the farmers mentioned moral concerns as an issue. The findings also make clear that economic benefits outweigh perceived risks. This study concludes that economic benefits are more salient than moral concerns to Indian farmers' perception Bt eggplant. It also proposes that an alternative theoretical model incorporating economic benefits, safety concerns, and accountability as key variables should be developed and tested for end users in the developing world.

Keywords: biotechnology; developing countries; farmers; risk perception

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669870500042990

Affiliations: Singapore Management University, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 469 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259756

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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