UBC Theses and Dissertations
A risk communication experiment regarding consumer decisions about genetically-engineered inputs for salmon aquaculture Longstaff, Holly Ann
In the future, it may be possible to feed farmed carnivorous salmon on an essentially vegetarian diet by substituting genetically engineered canola for wild pelagic fish meal from South America as the main protein component in fish feed. By reducing the need for imported, high demand and sometimes unreliable wild fish, Canadian salmon farming productions may be able to lower their production costs and eventually be more competitive on the world market. However, in order for these technologies to be utilized by the aquaculture industry, the various risks and benefits associated with them must be acceptable to the citizens of Canada. This research project analyzes and compares different methods of disseminating complex scientific information to Canadian consumers. The topic chosen is genetically engineered feeds that may be utilized by the Canadian salmon aquaculture industry in the future. To make more informed choices, the public needs access to trustworthy information that relates the known economic, social and environmental risks and benefits of using these new feeds. The motivation is to examine how different communication methods affect an individual's understanding of factual information, their confidence as a consumer, their acceptance of an issue, and their purchasing decisions. The conceptual framework for this project involved four tasks. First, an extensive literature review was conducted in order to complete three flow charts that categorized the known economic, social, and environmental risks and benefits of using GE salmon feed. These charts were then distributed to a diverse set of experts who were asked to determine the validity of their content. Once these two stages were finalized, sixteen mental model interviews were conducted with volunteer members of the general public. During these interviews, I discovered that many people held common misconceptions regarding salmon aquaculture and genetic engineering technologies. These misconceptions would hinder the comprehension of new information and were addressed in the risk communication experiment. The experiment itself was an in person survey in three sections. In the first section, the respondent was asked a series of multiple choice questions concerning genetic engineering technologies and salmon aquaculture. In part two, the respondent was given three different methods of communicating the risks and benefits of using genetically engineered salmon feeds; a flowchart, a case study and frequently asked questions. Each format was based on the expert model flow charts. In the final section, the respondent was re-tested on the questions from section one and asked to rate the methods of communication in section two on several criteria.
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