This paper examines the reasoning mechanism behind the consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods (GMFs) in China, and investigates influence of source credibility on consumer acceptance of GMFs. Based on the original Persuasion Model—which was developed by Carl Hovland, an American psychologist and pioneer in the study of communication and its effect on attitudes and beliefs—we conducted a survey using multistage sampling from 1167 urban residents, which were proportionally selected from six cities in three economic regions (south, central, and north) in the Jiangsu province through face to face interviews. Mixed-process regression that could correct endogeneity and ordered probit model were used to test the impact of source credibility on consumers’ acceptance of GMFs. Our major finding was that consumer acceptance of GMFs is affected by such factors as information source credibility, general attitudes, gender, and education levels. The reliability of biotechnology research institutes, government offices devoted to management of GM organisms (GMOs), and GMO technological experts have expedited urban consumer acceptance of GM soybean oil. However, public acceptance can also decrease as faith in the environmental organization. We also found that ignorance of the endogeneity of above mentioned source significantly undervalued its effect on consumers’ acceptance. Moreover, the remaining three sources (non-GMO experts, food companies, and anonymous information found on the Internet) had almost no effect on consumer acceptance. Surprisingly, the more educated people in our survey were more skeptical towards GMFs. Our results contribute to the behavioral literature on consumer attitudes toward GMFs by developing a reasoning mechanism determining consumer acceptance of GMFs. Particularly, this paper quantitatively studied the influence of different source credibility on consumer acceptance of GMFs by using mixed-process regression to correct endogeneity in information sources, while taking into consideration of information asymmetry and specific preference in the use of information sources.

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Published in Sustainability, v. 8, issue 9, 899, p. 1-16.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This project was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China, “Study on Consumers’ Preference and Willingness to Pay for Information Attributes of GMOs Mandatory Labeling—Based on Analysis of Genetically Modified Soybean Oil” (No. 71603129), and National Natural Science Foundation of China, “The study on the peer effects of GM food satefy crisis on the consumers and its information shareing behavior : based on the social impact theory” (No. 71673139), and National Social Sciences Fund of China, “Research on sustainable development of genetically modified crop industrialization” (No. 11&ZD172), and National Natural Science Foundation of China, “Research on risk perception and behavior regulations of genetically modified food according to information situation” (No. 71303114), and Startup Foundation for Introducing Talent of NUIST (No. 2015r067), and Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD).