GMOs are out of Cheerios, General Mills has said today on their website. The company says it is responding to customer concern but recent massive protests against genetically modified food are most likely a factor as well. General Mills made it clear that the whole grains used in Cheerios has never been genetically modified, but they have changed the source of the corn starch and sugar used in the process to now be completely organic. The change went into effect “a few weeks ago” according to General Mills, boxes labeled as GMO free will start appearing store shelves in the next few days. The move comes among ongoing controversy over the safety of using GMO ingredients in foods, those in favor of more organic options are very pleased with decision.
Although the whole grains in Cheerios have always been organic, the gram of sugar per O and the corn starch used in cooking the cereal into its classic shape had been sourced from genetically modified beets and corn. Through some reorganizing and procedure changes, the sugar now comes from organic sugar cane, and the starch from organic corn, guaranteeing that GMOs are out of Cheerios. Although the changes affect all Original Cheerios manufactured in the U.S., General Mills says it has no plans to change the recipes or manufacturing of any other cereals. Reasons included the complexities involved in recipes more elaborate than just sugar and oats, coupled with the near impossible logistics of acquiring massive amounts of ingredients such as beets, corn and soy from growers that could be certified as organic.
Now that GMOs are out of Cheerios many are hailing these changes as great strides against the dangers of GMOs used in foods. Protest group Inside GMO began a campaign in November 2012 encouraging consumer to express their concern over the use of GMO foods in Original Cheerios. Over a year later, over 250,000 commented on the rally video and emailed General Mills saying that the recipe must change. Now that the change has been implemented, most are in a happy state of shock. Although many smaller brands of cereal pride themselves on being GMO free, this is the first major global cereal manufacturer to guarantee a non-GMO flagship product.
Many are hoping that other major food manufacturers will take notice of the decision to make sure GMOs are out of Cheerios and realize that as demand for GMO free products increases it must eventually be met. With controversy around where we get our food increasing every day, being able to eat food that does not contain a GMO is becoming more than just a trend. But food suppliers are quick to point that at this point it is nearly impossible to find seeds for common ingredient plants that no longer have a modified element. Over time genetically modified crops have pushed out the organic strains, resulting in extremely reduced variety in the plants genetic structure. This makes it hard to grow ingredients that can be productive enough for the needs of manufacturers and still be organic.
By Daniel O’Brien