Are we willing to pay more for organic food?

Northern California shoppers were divided into two groups: “regular organic shoppers” who buy organic produce on a typical grocery-shopping trip; and “nonregulars” who don’t. They were asked how much more they would pay for four different produce items.

  • Bananas
  • Fuji apples
  • Broccoli
  • Red leaf lettuce

Each item was labeled three different ways

  • Pesticide free
  • No GMOs: genetically modified organisms (aka, genetically engineered)
  • Environmentally friendly

Regular organic shoppers would pay up to 39% more than nonregulars for produce with any of the three labels. The “environmentally friendly” label attracted the highest premium for all four produce types.

“Pesticide free” was the only label that the nonregular organic shoppers were willing to pay a statistically significant premium.

The no GMO label drew the lowest price premiums and the largest number of survey respondents who considered it an undesirable attribute. However, about 60% of nonregulars and 70% of regulars were willing to pay some positive amount for the no GMO attribute.

The researchers concluded that it seems a majority of consumers have some degree of concern about genetic modification.

Call me skeptical. But I can’t help pointing out that the study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis among residents of California. What are the chances they would have had the same responses at the local Stop & Shop in Monroe, New York?

Furthermore, the results were published in a food-merchandising magazine. Where is the statement listing potential conflicting interests of the researchers? Where is the peer review?

12/5/06 20:24 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.