PhD defence: Towards more sustainable food consumption and production – Consumer preferences and valuation of new breeding techniques, production methods, and health aspects
Anna Kristina Edenbrandt
Present food production systems and consumption patterns are in many respects unsustainable. This PhD thesis focuses on the role of consumers’ choices in addressing challenges with; i) feeding a growing population, ii) lowering environmental impacts from food production, and iii) addressing food related health concerns.
A proposed measure to target the first two challenges is genetic modification (GM) techniques, which enable increased productivity levels and reduced use of pesticides in production. However, these techniques have met with widespread public resistance. Concerns regarding unnaturalness among consumers motivated cisgenics, a variant of GM that could occur naturally. Based on data collected in a choice experiment survey and purchase data, I find that many consumers prefer cisgenics to previously known GM techniques. Many consumers even value cisgenics equal to traditional breeding, although there is a segment of consumers that purchase much organic products, which are reluctant to purchase cisgenic food. While cisgenic breeding may enable reduced use of pesticides in production, such products are not predicted to achieve a very large market share, since consumers that value pesticide-free highly are also to a large degree willing to pay a large premium for organic products.
The third sustainability challenge addressed in this thesis concerns diet related public health problems. One instrument for targeting these problems is the provision of nutritional labels on food products. I analyze purchase data and survey data, and find that most products are associated with higher prices when there is a nutritional label on the product. There is a positive relationship between self-reported positive preferences for the nutritional label and actual purchases of labeled products. Moreover, the share of nutritional labeled purchases is higher for the healthiest households. Since the implementation of nutritional labels is a relatively easy and cheap way of affecting consumers’ food choices, the results from this thesis imply that this measure is worthwhile, although reaching and attracting the less convinced and interested consumers remains a future challenge.
Bo Jellesmark Thorsen, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen
Christian Gamborg, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen
If you are interested in a full copy of the thesis, you can contact the PhD student or the supervisor.