General Mills has announced that it will remove ingredients derived from genetically enhanced crops - corn starch and sugar - from its regular Cheerios. The new Cheerios boxes will be labelled as "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients." The company is doing this despite the fact that it acknowledges that there is no evidence that current varieties of biotech crops pose any health or safety risks to people. In fact, the company's own crop biotechnology information website plainly states:
On safety – our number one priority – we find broad global consensus among food and safety regulatory bodies that approved GM ingredients are safe….
Global food safety experts will note there has not been a single incident of harm to health or safety demonstrably linked to the use of GMOs anywhere in the world. Numerous studies have found certain benefits, however.
With regard to the company's Cheerios announcement, Reuters reports:
"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," Tom Forsythe, vice president of Global Communications for General Mills, said in the blog post. "And it was never about pressure. In fact, this change is not much of a change at all."
The company hopes that "consumers may embrace" its decision to move away from GM ingredients.
Never about pressure? Maybe not, but the activist group Green America has been orchestrating an online anti-biotech letter writing campaign against Cheerios for the past year. Green America's suggested letter perpetuates these lies about the safety of biotech crops:
As a company that purports to be nourishing lives, why do you include ingredients in your foods that may be harmful to human health?…
As a company that purports to be responsible, why do you include GMOs that are causing harm to the environment and farmers?
As it happens, another General Mills' spokesperson was a bit more forthcoming about succumbing to pressure. From the Wall Street Journal:
"There is broad consensus that food containing GMOs is safe, but we decided to move forward with this in response to consumer demand," said Mike Siemienas, spokesman for General Mills.
General Mills is a private company and obviously has the right to make decisions within the law that it believes will benefit its stockholders. It's just sad that the company has decided not to defend its customers against activist disinformation and has instead chosen to mislead consumers about the safety of modern biotech agriculture.
By the way, a comprehensive review of the nearly 2,000 peer-reviewed studies that have investigated the safety of biotech crops over the past ten years was published this fall in the journal Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. The researchers report:
We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE [genetically engineered] crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops.
For more background, see my article, "The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops."