The research, led by Sean Fox of Kansas State, focused on consumer attitudes toward food safety, in particular consumer attitudes on cloned animals.
“We were interested in finding out how different groups of consumers react to the possibility of consuming products that were derived from cloned animals …We were also interested in how those reactions differed between countries, particularly in the United States and Europe,” said Fox, who is a professor of agricultural economics.
“Results suggest that a significant number of people do have concerns about cloning from an ethical and moral perspective.
“That will be very relevant if these products come to market and are labeled as such, because we would expect to see a significant number of people avoiding them,” he added.
The researchers surveyed students in agriculture, English and sociology at Kansas State University, and compared the attitudes of students on campus to those of agriculture students surveyed at University College Dublin in Ireland and Ecole Superieure d'Agriculture in Purpan, France.
The survey asked participants about their likelihood of buying and eating meat and other products from cloned animals.
Prof. Fox and his team’s results showed differences in attitudes and opinions on both an international and local level, the most significant of which being that American consumers are more accepting of cloned products than European consumers.
The researchers reported that students both Ireland and France were less likely to consume cloned products than American students.
Fox said that more European students were concerned about cloning from an ethical and moral perspective, whilst American students cited food safety concerns as the main reason to avoid cloned meats.
The strength of opposition to cloning was found to be much stronger for those who opposed animal cloning from a moral or ethical standpoint than for those who opposed it for food safety concerns, added Fox.
Women were reported to be less likely to purchase cloned products, whilst people familiar with science were found to be more accepting.
This was evidenced by the fact that students studying sociology and English students were reported to be less likely to consume cloned products than the agriculture students, reported the researchers.
While the survey results can't be generalized across any large population, Fox said they do offer insight into European and American views toward food technology.
The researchers are now working on a similar study to assess consumer acceptance in China and Honduras.
The use of cloned animals in food products has always divided opinions. In March, proposals to streamline the novel foods approval process by channelling it straight through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), rather than requiring prior ratification by an individual member state failed, after the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers clashed on how meat from cloned animals and their offspring should be regulated.
European Parliament wanted a ban on meat from both cloned animals and their offspring, whilst member state ministers insisted that such a ban should only apply to cloned animals and not their offspring.
Had the novel foods regulation passed into EU law, it would have been the first in the world to explicitly prohibit the use of meat from cloned animals.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not currently regulate the sale of milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals, and does not require such foods to be labelled.