Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Agricultural Economics

First Advisor

Dr. Wuyang Hu

Abstract

Nanotechnology is one of the key innovative technologies in the present century. The food industry has applied this technology in each of its sectors. Nanotechnology has tremendous potential in food and agriculture, including advancing agricultural cultivation and food production, enhancing food nutrition and flavor, and improving food packaging and preservation. However, the novel properties of nanoscale materials that allow beneficial applications are also accompanied with uncertainties, even unknown risks. A number of studies have examined public understanding as well as acceptance of nanotechnology via surveys in both the US and Europe. However, most of these studies concentrated on public attitudes in general. Few works focused on specific products, let alone food or food related products.

This project will contribute to the literature by calculating monetary valuations (i.e., willingness-to-pay) for canola oil where new techniques are utilized. Using choice experiment survey data, consumers’ valuations for nano attributes were estimated with choice models. As implied, consumers were willing to pay $0.95 less for a typical bottle (48 fl. oz.) of canola oil if it was produced from nanoscale-modified seed; $0.51 less if the final products were packed with nanotechnology-enhanced packaging technique; and no significant difference was found for oil that was designed with health enhancing nano-engineered oil drops, which would require interaction with the human digestive system.

Additionally, the results revealed unobserved heterogeneities among respondents in their willingness-to-pay for canola oil attributes. Aligned with descriptive results, 46.7% of the respondents reported that they were optimistic about new technology applied to food products. While a significant portion of the respondents (42.8%) indicated that they might gain benefits at the same level as risks, there were a slightly larger proportion of the respondents who feared they might be exposed to more risks than benefits through nanofoods. Further analysis included respondents’ attitudes and opinions as well as their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics toward the goal of understanding the underlying behavior difference. Findings from this study will help bridge the gap between scientific innovation and public policy and social-economic concerns. Implications for government policy that can be efficiently used to monitor and regulate these technologies were also investigated.

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