Chinese public perceptions of food applications based on synthetic biology

Shan Jin, Ian Dawson, Beth Clark, Wenjing Li, Lynn J. Frewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic biology (SB) is an emerging area of technological innovation with potential to be applied across a range of sectors, including within agri-food production. However, societal responses to SB and its applications will shape its development, commercialization and regulation trajectories. This research aimed to understand Chinese public responses to SB food in general and in relation to specific agri-food applications using an online survey (n = 1,330) and structural equation modelling. The results showed Chinese respondents have slightly positive attitudes towards SB food in general. Respondents reported an overall acceptance of SB soybean and SB yeast but rejected an SB pig. Of the included factors, benefit perceptions were the most influential in shaping acceptability. Affective reactions influenced benefits perceptions more than risk perceptions across all the applications. General attitudes towards SB food can positively affect the acceptability of specific applications directly, and indirectly via benefit perceptions. Greater perceived unnaturalness was a strong predictor of respondents’ risk perceptions but not of application acceptability. These results suggest that regulations for SB agri-food applications might most align with societal priorities if developed on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, regulatory frameworks and emerging commercialization strategies should consider the roles of multiple factors to address specific public perceptions and attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104950
Number of pages13
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Early online date24 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • synthetic biology
  • food innovation adoption
  • risk-benefit-acceptance model
  • dual-process theory
  • affective reaction
  • perceived unnaturalness

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