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Risk perception associated with an emerging agri-food risk in Europe: plant viruses in agriculture

Hilaire, J., Tindale, S., Jones, G. et al. Agric & Food Secur 11, 21 (2022). The research in this paper aims at exploring what the public think about plant viruses in agriculture in Europe. Plant viruses represent an emerging agricultural risk, resulting in agriculture yield losses estimated at $30 billion per year worldwide, and account for nearly 50% of emerging plant diseases globally, representing a threat to global food security. In Europe, plant viruses are responsible for significant economic damage in a range of crops including vegetables, grains, and ornamentals.

However, there is limited research on public perceptions associated with plants viruses in agriculture. Online qualitative semi-structured interviews with 80 European consumers were conducted, including 20 participants in each of Belgium, Slovenia, the UK, and Spain. The results suggest that, while study participants were relatively unfamiliar with the plant viruses and their potential impacts, plant viruses evoked perceived risks in a similar way to other emerging risks in the agri-food sector. These included risks to environment and human health, and the economic functioning of the relevant supply chain. Some participants perceived both risks and benefits to be associated with plant viruses. Benefits were perceived to be associated with improved plant resistance to viruses. The results provide the basis for risk regulation, policy, and communication developments. However, the sample size was too small to provide a full demographic and comparative analysis.

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