Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Perception of new technologies in the food sector

With increasingly industrial production and processing, food has more and more the character of a credence good. These are goods whose quality criteria can not be evaluated by the consumers themselves, but only by experts. Even with full declaration and labelling of foodstuff, consumers need the judgements of experts to take advantage of this information. Studies on risk communications reveal an important gap between the judgement of experts and the perceptions of laypeople. This is especially true for food-related hazards, which are perceived to be very risky. Additionally benefits of technologies in the food sector are perceived to be small in affluent societies. The acceptance of innovations in the Swiss food sector will therefore depend on trust-building measures within the food sector like quality control and labelling as well as on communication of benefits for the consumers with regard to the important aspects of health and convenience. However, the majority of Swiss consumers prefer food to be natural, an attitude which may hamper the breakthrough of some modern technologies.

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