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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2004

Social Acceptability/Awareness of Genetically Modified Crops in Southeast Arkansas

Tracy V. Dunbar
University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff


Genetically modified crops (GMCs) are engineered to yield gains in production efficiency. Consider, for example, crop varieties that are engineered to fit growing conditions at a particular location, that are resistant to herbicide damage or certain insects and disease, or have a more highly valued chemical composition (i.e., higher protein or iron content) (Kay and Edwards 1999). Some of the benefits of GMCs may include increased yield, less variation in yield, improvement in product quality or reduced impact on the environment (Kay and Edwards 1999). However, some consumers have questions and uncertainties about the risks associated with the use of GMCs. Some of these concerns are related to health and environment. There is interest in possible food safety issues resulting from bacterial residue remaining in products causing health problems. Environmental issues are related to loss of species and ecological imbalance resulting from gene manipulation. Ultimately, retailers and distributors will need a better understanding of consumer and producer attitudes about GMCs. In this study, a focus group technique was used to collect qualitative data about the acceptance and awareness of genetically modified crops (GMCs) in Southeast Arkansas. The study involved two groups: farmers and consumers. Participants were selected from a list of stakeholders provided by the Small Farm Project Office, University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff. The Small Farm Project provides technical assistance to 250-300 small and limited resources farmers. The focus group of farmers and consumers were asked four open-ended questions designed to determine their acceptance and awareness of GMCs. Also, a close-ended questionnaire requesting demographic and socioeconomic data was used. The content validity of the instruments used in the study was tested by a multi-disciplinary panel of experts from the University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff, University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Tennessee State University. This study was administered to test the instruments of data collection, and the participation of farmers and consumers for future studies with a larger population sample. Preliminary results of this study suggest that educational programs need to be developed about the benefits and risks of GMCs. Specifically, information is needed related to the long-term health and environmental effects of GMCs.

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