Parents and opponents of the use of genetically modified ingredients (GMO) in food have won a huge victory.
General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) announced Thursday in a blog that it is removing all GMO ingredients from its iconic Cheerios cereal.
Starting this week boxes of original Cheerios for sale in American supermarkets will have the words “not made with genetically modified ingredients” printed on them. It apparently is the first time a major food company has stopped using GMO ingredients in one of its flagship brands.
Cheerios are popular among families with little children.
“This is a big deal,” Todd Larsen of the anti-GMO activist group Green America said. “Cheerios is an iconic brand and one of the leading breakfast cereals in the U.S. What’s more, we don’t know of any other example of such a major brand of packaged food, eaten by so many Americans, going from being GMO to non-GMO. “
At question was the sugar, not the oats, General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas told CNN. He told The Wall Street Journal that General Mills is no longer using genetically modified beat sugar in Cheerios and had never used GMO oats in Cheerios.
Only a Partial Victory
But it’s only a partial win for anti-GMO groups. General Mills is only removing GMO from one kind of Cheerios. Other popular types of the cereal, such as Honey Nut Cheerios and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, will still contain GMO ingredients, Siemienas told CNN.
It would be difficult and perhaps impossible to manufacture those cereals without GMO, Siemienas said. Siemienas did not say if any other brand of General Mills cereal will be manufactured without GMO.
The other General Mills cereals include:
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch
- Fiber One
- Lucky Charms
- Cascadian Farm
Changing Consumer Habits Forced General Mills to Start Dropping GMOs
It was changing consumer habits that forced General Mills to start dropping GMO.
“Why change anything at all? It’s simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it,” wrote Tom Forsythe, vice president of Global Communications for General Mills. “General Mills offers non-GM choices in most of our major categories in the U.S., and now we can say the same about the ingredients in original Cheerios.”
General Mills maintains that GMO products are still safe, though.
General Mills has faced serious problems in recent years, many consumers switched to cheaper store brands of cereal during the recession. Sales have dropped and the company has been laying off workers. Even its CEO Ken Powell was forced to take a 14 percent pay cut earlier this year.
It is obvious that dropping GMO ingredients was a business decision designed to make Cheerios more appealing to consumers.
Latest Anti-GMO Victory
General Mills’ move was only the only latest victory for the non-GMO movement. Some other recent non-GMO victories include:
- Whole Foods Market’s announced it would require GMO labeling on all products in its stores by 2018.
- Target’s decision to launch its own in-house brand of GMO-free products called Simply Balanced. The Simply Balanced brand will eventually grow to a line of 250 products.
- Whole Foods’ decision to stop selling Chobani Greek yogurt because it contains GMO ingredients.
- The introduction of a motion by two members of Los Angeles’s city council to make the nation’s second largest city a GMO-free zone.
- The growing use of non-GMO seeds by American farmers.
- Connecticut’s governor signing the first law in the United States requiring GMO labeling. The law won’t into effect until other states adopt similar legislation, but it is a start.
It looks like anti-GMO activists are slowing winning the battle despite defeats at the ballot box in states like Washington and California.