General Mills announced it will no longer use genetically engineered ingredients in Cheerios. The company says it will stop sourcing bioengineered starch and sugar for original-flavor Cheerios. The cereal’s sugar has been derived from beets, most of which were genetically modified, but Cheerios will now be sweetened with cane sugar. The main ingredient in Cheerios, whole grain oats, is not an issue since genetically modified oats are not available in the US.
The new boxes, labeled “not made with genetically modified ingredients,” will begin appearing on store shelves in mid-January, according to a blog post by Tom Forsythe, vice president of global communications for General Mills.
“General Mills offers non-GMO choices in most of our major categories in the US, and now we can say the same about Cheerios,” Forsythe says in the post. “But it’s not about safety. Biotech seeds, also known as genetically modified seeds, have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in global food crops for almost 20 years.” Forsythe also notes that General Mills’ position on genetically modified organisms has not changed.
In an Ag Professional editorial, Managing Editor Colleen Scherer says the switch represents General Mills’ caving to pressure from a media campaign launched by anti-GMO activist groups, mainly GMOInside.org.
“The group as well as other anti-GMO activist groups contended that since Cheerios is one of the first foods a baby eats when it’s learning to eat solid food, the cereal should not contain GMOs, which they claim have not been proven to be safe,” Scherer says. “By targeting consumers’ and mothers’ fears, they succeeded in letting emotions dictate a company’s manufacturing decisions.”
Other companies that have announced plans to phase out GMOs include Ben & Jerry’s and Chipotle, while Whole Foods says all GMO products on its shelves will be labeled by 2018.