Special Report 68

Executive Summary

The primary goal of this study was to better understand what factors influence consumers' risk perceptions toward recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) and recombinant porcine growth hormone (rpGH), and to determine whether these risk perceptions differ between poor and nonpoor samples. This report summarizes the findings of a national survey of household food shoppers measuring consumer knowledge and risk perceptions of rbGH and rpGH, one year after the FDA approved rbGH for commercial use. A total of 1,910 interviews, averaging sixteen minutes in length, were completed. The findings were reported by comparing poor and nonpoor samples, where the poor sample was comprised of those respondents who met the USDA poverty guideline requirements.

We found that the poor respondents, when compared to the nonpoor respondents, were less aware of biotechnology and rbGH. A smaller percentage of the poor sample approved of biotechnology than the nonpoor sample, and a larger percentage of poor respondents disapproved of the use of rbGH. But awareness of and willingness to purchase rpGH-treated pork if approved by the FDA was similar for both samples. In both samples, the majority stated there had been no change in the amount of milk they bought since the FDA approved rbGH. However, 10.6 percent of aggregate fluid milk consumption was identified by respondents as having come from untreated herd milk. Similarly, a majority of the poor and nonpoor samples stated they thought milk should be labeled so consumers could distinguish between milk from treated and untreated herds. More respondents from the nonpoor sample preferred untreated milk than from the poor sample.

Respondents from the poor sample were more likely to be concerned about the current safety of rbGH with respect to human ill health effects, and they were also more likely to be concerned about the future discovery of human ill health effects than the nonpoor respondents. In order to understand the differences in risk perception between the two samples, we compared the poor and nonpoor respondents who were concerned to those who were not concerned about the future discovery of health risks. The findings are as follows:

The report also analyzed the differences based on gender. To summarize: