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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture
realistic understanding of public attitudes toward pesticides and of the public actions that are likely to result from these attitudes. Van Ravenswaay (1995) and others (such as Baker and Crosbie 1993, Jussaume and Judson 1992) have been critical of the state of research in public perception of pesticides. Van Ravenswaay (1995) concludes that there is an immediate need for more basic research that includes development of valid and reliable theories and methods for quantitatively assessing public concerns. There is also a need for basic research that will improve communication channels between scientists, policymakers, and the public.
One possible reason for the apparent low willingness to pay for residue-free produce is that high levels of concern about residue did not necessarily indicate belief in immediate individual danger. For example, one study found that while 72% of respondents believed pesticides in food to be a major health risk but only 47% believed that pesticides made the US food supply unsafe (Dunlap and Beus 1992).
Some have argued that the growth of organic-food sales is an indication of the public's willingness to pay to avoid both residue on foods and environmental problems associated with the use of pesticides in food production. According to data published by the Natural Foods Merchandiser (1997), organic-food sales have seen an annual growth rate of approximately 21% between 1980 and 1996. Organic-food sales have risen far faster than total food sales, which were only a little over twice as large in nominal terms in 1996 as in 1980. Prices of organic produce average 25-35% higher than prices of comparable conventional produce (Hammitt 1986, Morgan and Barbour 1991); purchasers of organic foods seem willing to pay a substantial premium for them. However, concerns about pesticides constitute only part of the motivation for buying organic foods. Most purchasers of organic foods believe that they are more nutritious and flavorful than conventionally grown foods (Hammit 1986, Jolly et al. 1989), and certification as residue-free is not the sole criterion of demand for organic produce.
The Hartman Report (Hartman Group 1996), phases I and II, summarizes an extensive survey of 1,800 consumers to assess attitudes toward food and the environment. Some key points follow.
Concern for the environment is vague and diffuse. About 71% of survey respondents indicate interest in purchasing earth-sustainable grocery products; this percentage drops to 46% if there is a premium on the price of products.
Concerns about water pollution are greater than concerns about chemical residues in food; 40–50% of those surveyed were knowledgeable about groundwater issues.
About 68 % of those surveyed indicate a preference for the substi-