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Trust distrust and consumer beliefs about food safety

Ahmet Ekici, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Even though we know very little about their long-term consequences, applications of biotechnologies are expected to shape the present and future profoundly. Supporters of agricultural biotechnology predict a number of economic, social, and environmental benefits. Past experience with useful food production and food processing technologies, however, suggests that such benefits frequently come with associated risks to human health and environments. Central to the public discourse on the risks and benefits of biotechnology is the issue of trust and perceived credibility of social institutions such as governmental agencies, life-science companies, food manufacturers, and research organizations. It is my contention that any discussion about the future of biotechnology and its applications would be incomplete without an in depth understanding of this central issue. The review of the relevant literature suggests that approaches to the issue of trust in marketing and in other social sciences may not be sufficient to understand consumers' trust in these institutions and in the food system. In addition, it appears that the issue of what American consumers' trust/distrust in the food supply (safety) system really means is not clear and perhaps under examined. These knowledge gaps inhibit a better understanding of consumer view of food system with respect to food safety and GMF. As a result, this study aims to answer questions such as can the food system be trusted, what does that trust/distrust mean, and how is that trust/distrust related to the component of the system. A qualitative methodology (in-depth interviewing technique) was employed to answer these research questions. ^ Informants can both trust and distrust various actions of individual institutions in the food system. Further, two sources of trust (confidence/assurance-based and hope/faith-based) and three sources of distrust (skepticism/cynicism-based, fear-based, and vigilance/watchfulness-based) are identified for individual institutions. In addition, informants' trust/distrust in the food system may be based on their trust/distrust in a particular institution or their perception of the interactions between various component institutions. Theoretical significance and practical (public policy) implications of the findings are also discussed. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Marketing|Political Science, Public Administration

Recommended Citation

Ekici, Ahmet, "Trust distrust and consumer beliefs about food safety" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3070126.