Study finds bias against conventional fruit

10/14/2013 08:49:00 AM
Tom Karst

A new study finds consumer demand for local and organic apples is boosted by a lack of trust in U.S. regulatory agencies who provide oversight to conventional fruit production.

The study, called “Is it love for local/organic or hate for conventional? Asymmetric effects of information and taste on label preferences in an experimental auction” was published by Colorado State University researchers Marco Costanigroa, Stephan Krolla and Dawn Thilmanya.

In a presentation about the study, Thilmanya said an auction method was employed in the consumer research. Consumers were first given one pound of non-local, non-organic gala apples. Consumers could then “bid” on organic, non-local apples, non-organic local or local organic apples.

The study found that local and organic apples were both seen as alternatives to the conventional food system.

“Some are not willing to trade local/organic for conventional apples even when they rated the latter as better tasting,” the authors said in an summary about the report.

A distrust in regulatory oversight is a key trigger in the valuation for local and organic, according to the authors.

On a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 meaning “strongly disagree” and 9 meaning “strongly agree,” the mean (average of all scores) response of consumers polled was 4.39 to the statement that “pesticide levels are safe if meet U.S. standards.” The mean response to the statement “I trust U.S. food safety agencies” was 5.21, researchers said.

On the other hand, when consumers responded to the statement that “local produce lowers global warming,” the response was was 6.87 and “eating organic lowers health risks” was 6.27.

When assigning value to the statement that “local farmers are safer than the food marketing system” the mean response was 5.28, compared to 5.95 to the statement that “environmental impact of conventional is greater than organic.”

When presented with scientific information about the tradeoffs between local, organic and conventional, the authors said that consumers either disregarded the information or interpreted it selectively. For example, consumers were told that conventional produce has two to four times more pesticide residue but that no evident threat to consumers have been documented.

In general, that behavior seemed to confirm some consumers bias against conventional production in favor of local and organic, according to the authors.



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R. Henry    
LA  |  October, 14, 2013 at 10:02 AM

I attach zero credibility to this "study". I would venture to guess that the polling group had and agenda, and devised the "study" to support their agenda. Rubbish!

Josh    
Florida  |  October, 14, 2013 at 11:17 AM

I concur with R. Henry, at the supermarket level their is no major difference to the consumer whether the product is local or not (though they may assume it is). They pick out the fruit that is the biggest, most pleasing to the eye, if the Michigan apple has a blemish one can bet that the consumer will buy the perfect Washington apple. In the same regard, eastern cantaloupe benefit from the fact that they are very large compared to western varieties, or their would not be any demand for eastern cantaloupe.

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