Consumer Risk Perceptions Toward Agricultural Biotechnology, Self-Protection, and Food Demand: The Case of Milk in the United States


*Address correspondence to Lydia Zepeda, Professor of Consumer Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706;


This study is an econometric systems approach to modeling the factors and linkages affecting risk perceptions toward agricultural biotechnology, self-protection actions, and food demand. This model is applied to milk in the United States, but it can be adapted to other products as well as other categories of risk perceptions. The contribution of this formulation is the ability to examine how explanatory factors influence risk perceptions and whether they translate into behavior and ultimately what impact this has on aggregate markets. Hadden's outrage factors on heightening risk perceptions are among the factors examined. In particular, the article examines the role of labeling as a means of permitting informed consent to mitigate outrage factors. The effects of attitudinal, economic, and demographic factors on risk perceptions are also explored, as well as the linkage between risk perceptions, consumer behavior, and food demand. Because risk perceptions and self-protection actions are categorical variables and demand is a continuous variable, the model is estimated as a two-stage mixed system with a covariance correction procedure suggested by Amemiya. The findings indicate that it is the availability of labeling, not the price difference, between that labeled milk and milk produced with recombinant bovine Somatotropin (rbST) that significantly affects consumer's selection of rbST-free milk. The results indicate that greater availability of labeled milk would not only significantly increase the proportion of consumers who purchased labeled milk, its availability would also reduce the perception of risk associated with rbST, whether consumers purchase it or not. In other words, availability of rbST-free milk translates into lower risk perceptions toward milk produced with rbST.