January 3, 2014
Cheerios Flagship Flavor Goes Non-GMO
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Despite a significant lack of evidence showing they are harmful, genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the food production industry have drawn the ire of skeptical consumers.
In a tacit acknowledgment of this movement, General Mills has announced that it will begin selling non-GMO Cheerios in the coming weeks. The cereal will now be labeled as "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients" – an uncertified claim. The packaging will also say that small amounts of GMO ingredients could be inside due to the manufacturing process, Mike Siemienas, a company spokesman told the Associated Press.
A public campaign started by the group Green America had been pushing for the company to make the switch. However, General Mills stopped short of admitting it had cowed to public pressure over safety concerns.
"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," the General Mills blog said.
The biggest factor in the decision was most likely due to the main ingredient in Cheerios being oats – which are not grown from genetically modified seeds. The company said it has started using non-GMO cornstarch and non-GMO sugar to make the popular breakfast cereal. General Mills said it hoped that "consumers may embrace" the switch.
For now, the company has no public plans to alter Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Multi-Grain Cheerios or any other flavor Cheerios. These products are also made with corn, which is typically grown with modified seeds.
"For our other (non-organic) cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible," the company said according to USA Today.
“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,” said Todd Larsen, Green America's corporate responsibility director in a press release. “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.”
The move by Cheerios comes as the upscale supermarket chain Whole Foods is looking to rid its shelves of GMO products entirely by 2018. The company made headlines in December by announcing that it would stop selling the popular Greek yogurt brand Chobani this year due to its use of GMOs.
"As the national demand for Greek yogurt has grown, the number of conventional Greek yogurt options has multiplied," the market chain said in its statement. "Whole Foods Market challenged its Greek yogurt suppliers to create unique options for shoppers to enjoy – including exclusive flavors, non-GMO options and organic choices."
"At this time, Chobani has chosen a different business model, so Whole Foods Market will be phasing Chobani Greek Yogurt out of its stores in early 2014 to make room for product choices that aren't readily available on the market," the company continued.