General Mills bids Cherrios to GMO

Cheerios (General Mills)General Mills has started producing Cheerios free of genetically modified content, making the 73-year-old breakfast cereal one of the highest-profile brands to change in the face of growing complaints over such ingredients from activist groups and some consumers.

The change—which only affects original Cheerios, not other varieties like Honey Nut Cheerios—has been in the works since about a year ago, when General Mills began working to change manufacturing for Cheerios to eliminate ingredients containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The company started manufacturing the GMO-free cereal several weeks ago, and expects it to be available to consumers "shortly," once the products have made their way through the distribution system and onto shelves. The Cheerios will carry the label "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients," though the company notes that they could contain trace amounts due to contamination in shipping or manufacturing.

Critics of GMO use in foods called attention to the Cheerios move Thursday, hailing it as a major victory. Advocacy groups have raised concerns about possible health problems from eating foods with GMOs, which are crops like corn grown from seeds genetically engineered for desirable traits like pest resistance. The groups have promoted consumer campaigns in some states to mandate labeling of GMOs in food, and targeted specific brands—including Cheerios—and to change their policies.

Most big food companies have rebuffed such efforts, arguing that there is no evidence of any health problems resulting from GMOs despite decades of use. The food companies also generally have refused voluntarily labeling, saying it is costly and will give consumers a misconception that GMOs are harmful.

"There is broad consensus that food containing GMOs is safe, but we decided to move forward with this in response to consumer demand," said Mike Siemienas, spokesman for General Mills.

The Minneapolis-based company said it chose Cheerios because the primary ingredient is oats, a crop that isn't grown from genetically modified seeds, so the transition just required it to find new sources of cornstarch and sugar.

"Even that required significant investment," Mr. Siemienas said. He didn't provide a figure, but said that the hurdles would make it "difficult, if not impossible" to make Honey Nut Cheerios and other varieties without GMOs.

GMO Inside, a campaign that advocates GMO labeling, said Cheerios is the first major brand of packaged food in the U.S. to make the switch from containing GMOs to marketing itself as non-GMO. Some foreign countries have restricted GMO use in food for years.

Other companies have also said they plan to change. Whole Foods Market Inc. said it will require by 2018 that all food in its stores containing GMOs, disclose the fact on labels. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Kellogg Co.'s Kashi, which markets its cereals and snacks as having "natural ingredients," have both said they are working on taking GMOs out of their food.

But it is a lengthy and expensive process. Kashi says only 1% of U.S. cropland is organic and around 70% of packaged foods contain GMOs.

 

source: Wall St Journal

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Comments

  1. How is changing the source of sugar and starch going to make any impact on the healthiness of the product? Sugar as used in the food industry is a refined product and as such generally contains no proteins. Sugar from a a GMO source and non-GMO source are molecularly identical. The same is true for corn starch.

  2. That’s really a fair questions. Here’s some info on this topic:

    According to Time.com:
    there is little scientific evidence that shows genetically modified ingredients are more harmful than GMO-free foods, consumer backlash against the products has grown in recent months, and General Mills is the latest to acquiesce.

    Source: http://business.time.com/2014/01/03/general-mills-to-sell-gmo-free-cheerios/#ixzz2s6nFvtaQ

    Some consumers have health and environmental concerns over the use of GMOs, though there is little scientific proof that products made with GMOs are less safe. The move is being hailed by anti-GMO activist groups as a major victory. It comes at a time activists have been increasingly pressuring American food makers to remove GMOs from all foods — or, at the very least, label all foods that do contain GMOs.

    From USNews.com:

    Those who support eliminating GMOs from the American food supply said removing GMOs from Cheerios is a positive move that shows Americans are more interested in where their food comes from. Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for the green economy organization Green America, lauded the move: “…Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills. Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-GMO and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand…”

    source: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/01/03/is-general-mills-right-to-eliminate-gmos-from-cheerios

    The Center for Food Safety says:

    Many sweeteners, and products like candy and chocolate that contain them, can come from GMO sources. Look for organic and non-GMO sweeteners, candy and chocolate products made with 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, or organic sugar to avoid GE beet sugar, and watch out for soy lecithin in chocolates and corn syrup in candies. Molasses can also be derived from GE sugar beets, so choose organic molasses. Milk and white chocolate products are often manufactured with milk from cows treated with rbGH. Sugar-free candies often contain aspartame, known commercially as NutraSweet. NutraSweet can be made from genetically modified crops.

    source: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/non-gmo-shoppers-guide-325/1943/candy-chocolate-products-and-sweeteners#

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