By Dr. Mercola
Cereal giant General Mills has announced that its original-flavor Cheerios will soon be made without the use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
It’s a major step in the right direction that also highlights the changing attitudes among the US public regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs)… increasing numbers of people simply do not want them in our food.
For some of you, the news that Cheerios even contained GM ingredients to begin with may come as a surprise, as GM ingredients are not required to be labeled in the US (the way they are in the European Union or EU).
Others may have assumed they were GM-free, since they’re made mostly from oats, not corn or soy, which are two of the most commonly used GMOs in the US. Unbeknownst to many, however, Cheerios were formerly made using GM cornstarch and sugar.
Most likely, though, General Mills’ move was made in response to recent consumer backlash, proving once again that the power to clean up the food supply lies in your hands.
Consumer Backlash Likely Drove General Mills to Drop GMOs from Cheerios
General Mills reported earlier this month that they’ve already begun producing Cheerios made without GMOs. To be clear, the change will only apply to its original-flavor cereal (not Apple Cinnamon or others), and the boxes will be labeled “Not Made with Genetically Modified Ingredients.”
There will also be a disclaimer that trace amounts of GMO ingredients may be present due to contamination during the manufacturing process.1 The move comes just weeks after General Mills’ Cheerios brand released a Facebook app asking “fans” to “show what Cheerios mean to them.”
The app allowed users to create their own placards using Cheerios’ trademarked black font on a yellow background, where dots and periods featured little cheerios. One day later, the app was abruptly pulled after thousands of angry “fans” expressed their disgust over the company’s betrayal. What betrayal, you ask?
General Mills donated more than $1.1 million to the “No on Prop. 37” campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 37, which would have required GM foods to be labeled as such and prevented GM foods from being mislabeled as “natural.”
Proposition 37 was defeated back in November 2012 due to massive donations from multinational corporations, such as General Mills, which hide GM ingredients behind natural labels and “wholesome” advertising. Two of the first three ingredients in Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are cornstarch and sugar—two ingredients that are often genetically engineered.
You Spoke… and General Mills Listened!
Many people are now waking up to the fact that there is an ever-growing number of genetically engineered ingredients in our food that we had no idea were there. As far as Cheerios goes, you’d never get the impression there might be anything unnatural about their cereal.
But when it came out that the company had been donating to efforts to keep GM labeling silent, their trust for providing “wholesome goodness” (as their Web site claims) was badly broken.
After all, they would rather pay millions to hide that their products contain GM ingredients rather than give you the choice to buy something else… or reformulate their product without GM ingredients (which would be the sensible thing to do if they were really concerned about children’s long-term health and well-being).
After all the backlash – remember, there were thousands of people speaking out against their GMO deception on their Facebook page – General Mills got proactive with damage control by removing the GM ingredients from their flagship product. Now, if they’ll extend it to their other products as well, we’ll be getting somewhere…
Monsanto Disses GMO-Free Cheerios as a Marketing Stunt
Monsanto, the world leader in genetically modified (GM) crops and seeds, dismissed General Mills’ move to make Cheerios GMO-free, calling it a ‘marketing’ move. CEO Hugh Grant focused his comments on the fact that oats are the main ingredient in original Cheerios, and there are no GM oats.
Still, there is GM corn and GM sugar, two other ingredients used in the cereal. Clearly Monsanto is keen on downplaying the positive press that General Mills is receiving over labeling their products as free from GMOs. Could this signal the beginning of the end for the unspoken partnership between biotech and the junk-food industry?
CEO Hugh Grant said:2
“The interesting thing with Cheerios over that particular brand is they’re made from oats, and there are no biotech oats in existence today. So I think we’ve talked for years about we would support voluntary labeling and that was up to companies to do. I think we saw last week was the first real life example of true voluntary labeling and probably a little bit of marketing as well.”
Monsanto is not going to let GM labeling happen without a fight, however. Last year the company donated nearly $5 million to the anti-labeling campaign in Washington State, and in 2012 they donated more than $7 million to help defeat California’s Proposition 37.
Curiously enough, Monsanto is more than willing to “support” GMO labeling once they run out of options. They even ran an ad in the UK letting British consumers know how much the company supports the mandatory labeling of their goods—even urging Britons to seek such labels out—ostensibly because Monsanto believes “you should be aware of all the facts before making a decision.”
Forbes Asks: Are GMO-Free Cheerios “The First Domino”?
The first white flag from the food industry has gone up, and even Forbes had to admit it. With increasing GMO-labeling initiatives on state ballots and regulators considering labeling changes on a national level, the food industry has been standing together to defeat this rising opposition … until now.
General Mills’ move sets it apart from the other industry giants in showing that they are responding to consumer demand. It’s a wise move that will win them major favor among the growing number of Americans seeking safer food while costing them little (the actual tweaking of their recipe to become GMO-free will be minimal). This may very well be the ‘first domino’ to fall …
In fact, Post Foods recently announced that they have released a non-GMO verified Grape Nuts cereal that is available on store shelves as of January 2014.. and they’re looking to add even more non-GMO verified products, noting that
“We are always listening to our consumers…”
So it seems the dominoes are already beginning to fail. As for why General Mills’ made their move at such a pivotal time in GM-food history, Forbes hit the nail on the head:3
“The answer is that public opinion is reaching critical mass. Ninety-percent of Americans believe that GMOs are unsafe, 93 percent of Americans favor stringent federal GMO labeling regulations, and 57 percent say they would be less likely to buy products labeled as genetically modified. When we shift the focus from General Mills motivations to the timing of its decision, we see why every food manufacturer ought to be taking notice, whether another brand-name kitchen table staple goes non-GMO or not.”