AFRE Research Team Publishes Results on Motivations and Intent Behind Biotechnology Adoption in Dairy

Dr. Danielle Ufer's study received recognition for winning the 2022 Richardson-Applebaum Outstanding Graduate Award for Best Ph.D. Dissertation.

Much of biotechnology acceptance research has focused on consumer preferences. However, Dr. Danielle Ufer, a recent Ph.D. graduate the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE), focused her dissertation on adoption of biotechnology at the producer level. Ufer recognized that profitability is only part of the decision to adopt biotechnology, but wanted to dig deeper into other elements of decision making. 

With her major professor, Dr. David Ortega, and three other Michigan State faculty members, Ufer chose for their study to focus on the dairy industry and willingness to adopt gene edited technology.  

“If farmers aren't willing to adopt this type of biotechnology, then you're not going to find these products in the marketplace because you don't have people that are wanting to produce them,” said Ortega. “The consumer preference piece is important, but equally important is producers’ willingness to adopt this technology in their operations.” 

The question for dairy farmers focused on their willingness to adopt gene editing biotechnology through the purchase of semen, which will increase resistance to Johne's disease in your herd under different conditions. 

Through an experimental design the research team gathered 361 usable observations. 

“A set of scenarios were placed before the farmer to evaluate willingness to adopt to these gene edited genetics under various conditions,” said Ortega. 

“The various conditions ranged from the ability of the genetics to reduce the risk of Johne’s disease, whether the farmer would receive the same price for their milk or a decrease in price, whether the veterinarian encouraged the adoption of this type of biotechnology or was indifferent, and whether surrounding farmers were using this type of technology.” 

The results from this study helped to shed light on what influences the producer's decision-making process. 

“What we found was that it's not all about profitability,” said Ortega. “Profitability is a necessary condition, but it's not sufficient. We have to look at these non-pecuniary, non-profit related motives.” 

The research team found that peer adoption and veterinarian support or opposition is influential in the decision-making process. 

“The dairy industry is facing a lot of hardships,” said Ortega. “We have tools through technology, biotechnology in this case, that can really help farmers address problems. In this case, a very costly disease that they may be facing. It's important to understand what the motivating factors are and what may be some apprehensions that they may have in terms of using this new type of biotechnology.” 

Members of the research team included Danielle Ufer, David Ortega, Christopher Wolf, Melissa McKendree and Janice Swanson. To learn more about their study, you can access the article on ScienceDirect. 

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