MSc colloquium by Martine Jansen: Regulation and Acceptation of Novel Technologies in Europe and the US

Published on
March 6, 2018

You are hereby cordially invited to the MSc thesis presentation by Martine Jansen entitled: Regulation and Acceptation of Novel Technologies in Europe and the United States. Comparing genetic modification to nanotechnology in Europe and the United States’. 

Supervisor: Tamara Metze and Karin Schröen
Date: 13 March 2018
Time: 13.30-14.30 hours
Location: room C84, Leeuwenborch, Hollandseweg 1, Wageningen

Novel food technologies may contribute to reducing food scarcity around the globe: two examples are genetic modification and nanotechnology. Genetic modification of organisms if possible since 1990, and is used to change the genetic composition of an organism in such a way that it is more nutritious or more resistant to pests, droughts, and diseases. Nanotechnology very recently gained importance and involves components with sizes between 1 and 100 nanometers. These components are added to foods or packaging in order to make them more nutritious or enhance their strength, flavor, or color.

The purpose of this study is to explore the difference in acceptation and regulation of novel food technologies, such as genetic modification and nanotechnology, between Europe and the United States

The methods included a literature study and empirical research. A literature study was carried out by a document analysis, and analysis of websites of actors involved: governments, non-governmental organizations, food companies, biotechnology companies, and consumers. We found differences in definitions, the point of view, acceptation, and thoughts on genetic modification and nanotechnology. European regulation is a more strict regulation with clear guidelines regarding food technologies, whereas United States regulation is more lenient and based on voluntary risk assessment and labeling.

Empirical research was carried out through a web-based survey. Starting with a pilot survey with images representative for natural products, genetic modification, and nanotechnology, to select the most illustrative images related to the emotions happy, sad, angry, and scared, as scored by the students participating in the multi-disciplinary themes course. The main survey focussed on the reaction, and acceptance of these technologies by students from Europe and the US, aged between 18 and 25 years. Significant differences were found between male and female and European and US respondents. We had a specific interest in the role of images and emotions, knowledge, and gender in the judgment of these two new technologies.

This is of interest, as the academic literature already indicates that (1) there is a difference in (1a) regulation and (1b) acceptation genetic modification and nanotechnology between Europe and the US; and (2) a gender difference. However, less is known about the role of emotions and images that may evoke these emotions.

Thus, the results from the survey would give the answer to the questions by looking at differences between gender, location, and application (GMO versus nanotechnology) and by looking at risk perception on the basis of images and information.

Recommendations discussed include: finding if there are elements within images that trigger certain associations (with natural or a technology) or emotions and see if this is linked to the framing of technologies and products. For this, it is also recommended to question a larger group of people for a more detailed dataset.