General Mills announced that their “original” Cheerios (you know, the one that says it’s good for your heart) will be GMO-free. Being non GMO is a great thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to run out to buy them. Honestly, my diet has changed over the years and this is something I wouldn’t consider eating anymore, whether they were GMO free or not.
Is This GMO Free Announcement Really that Huge?
Yes and no. It is a victory that a large manufacturer is acknowledging the non GMO consumer advocates. I also believe it will cause other food manufacturers to take notice.
This isn’t that huge because the main ingredient in original Cheerios is oats, which is currently not genetically modified. On the Cheerios website, it actually states that
“It’s the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible.”
At least their corn starch and sugar will no longer be modified.
This change will also only affect their original Cheerios, not their other Cheerio products in the United States. You see, in Europe, General Mills already manufactures Cheerios without GMOs and if it sells Cheerios in Europe, which were manufactured in North America, the product is labeled as “likely containing GMOs.”
As of today, General Mills isn’t going to make their original Cheerios Non GMO Project Verified. Currently, on the Cheerios website under the ingredients for original Cheerios, it states “Trace amounts of genetically modified (also known as “genetically engineered”) material may be present due to potential cross contact during manufacturing and shipping.” So there is still a possibility that there could be some GMOs in that supposed non-GMO box.
What Made General Mills Change?
I was surprised to see boxes of Cheerios on the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle at Whole Foods. Yes, not everything at Whole Foods (or Trader Joe’s, for that matter) is healthy! Whole Foods announced that by 2018, every product they sell will be labeled to indicate whether they have GMOs. This gives manufacturers time to make changes to where they source their ingredients.
Also, the Cheerios brand was bombarded last year by complaints and campaigns from non-GMO advocates regarding their GMO ingredients.
This begs the question – did these things cause General Mills to make the GMO-free announcement?
According to a General Mills VP, they didn’t do it because of pressure. They did it “because [they] think consumers may embrace it.” The VP treads a fine line – trying to appease the non-GMO crowd while also assuring current customers that nothing has really changed with Cheerios. It’s still the “One and Only” he exclaims.
General Mills – Marketing Ploy, or Health Concern?
The truth is, General Mills is a manufacturer who has paid millions of dollars to oppose GMO labeling in the various states in which it has been proposed. I really hope this isn’t just some marketing ploy by General Mills to bring positive attention to their brand again, but I have to believe that is probably the case.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “in the year ended Nov. 3, dollar sales of cereal had dropped 2.5 percent from the previous year, and sales of Cheerios sagged about 7 percent.” They needed to do something after the beating they took from non-GMO consumers last year.
Unfortunately, according to the General Mills website, their position on GMOs hasn’t changed.
To Cheerios – I was duped by you for too many years. I don’t think I’m going to fall for your marketing tactics again! To the non GMO advocates – continue the good work! We can continue to make changes with our petitions, emails, calls and dollars spent. This proves that the manufacturers are listening, especially when it hits their bottom line.
Read Next: What Are GMOs?
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