Economic evaluation of consumer awareness, attitudes and willingness to pay for genetically modified foods in kenya: The case of maize meal in Nairobi
In light of the proposed introduction of Bt maize in Kenya, a consumer survey was conducted with 604 urban respondents in Nairobi, Kenya, in November and December 2003 to determine consumers' awareness, attitudes and willingness to pay (WfP) for GM foods in three points of sale namely supermarkets, kiosks and posho mills. WTP for GM maize meal was estimated using the Contingent Valuation method, with a dichotomous choice framework and a double-bounded logit model. The model was further expanded to analyze the factors that influence WTP. The results show that 38% of the respondents are aware of GM crops. Newspapers are the main sources of information about GM crops, followed by schools/colleges. Most consumers believe in the technology's positive impacts, with more than 80% agreeing that it increases productivity and offers a solution to the world's food problem. However, consumers are concerned about environmental and health risks, as well as ethical and equity issues. Half of the respondents agree that the technology leads to a loss of original varieties, and that insect resistant GM crops could have an effect on untargeted insects. About a third fear that consumption of GM foods can damage one's health while' 40% fear it could cause allergic reactions. Half of the respondents perceive GM food as artificial, and 36% are of the view that GM products are being forced on developing countries. Most consumers (68%) would be willing to buy GM maize meal if it were offered at the same price as their favourite maize meal brands. Nairobi consumers are willing to pay KShs 58 for a 2kg packet for GM maize meal, which is a 13.7% premium over average current maize meal prices (KShs 51), confirming acceptance of the use of GM technology. Cognitive factors come out strongly as the main determinants of WTP. Health risk perception and ethical concems have a negative influence on WTP, while trust in government to ensure food quality has a positive influence. People with monthly incomes of over Kshs. 50,000 have higher WTP than students with zero income, while those with some secondary as highest education level are willing to pay more than those with just some primary level. Those interviewed in the supermarket are willing to pay more than those interviewed in the posho mills. There is high acceptance implying that the technology can be tapped to playa role in addressing food insecurity in Kenya. The government and other stakeholders ought to carry out educative campaigns to further inform on the technology through revealed sources of information. Factual information should be given to dispel suspicion and myths. Consumer surveys should be done regularly to determine awareness and capture changing perceptions. This should be expanded to other towns and to rural areas. In order to reap benefits of the technology, the government should invest in biotechnology research, encourage participation but at the same time ensure compliance with bio safety regulations.