GMO Food

General Mills Succumbs to Anti-Biotech Activist Lies - Removes GMO Ingredients from Cheerios



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."

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  1. Doesn't look like they're misleading.

    If their market is ignorant people, it's the market solution to cater to those people. Meh.

    1. A: Scientifically misleading.

      1. Everything I saw that quoted them said "This is safe, but we're going to change anyway." Right?

        1. A: The label will mislead customers into thinking that non-GMO cereal is somehow safer.

          1. Thanks for the responses, Ron. I still disagree; while a person could interpret what they're doing as misleading, they're repeatedly saying in literal words that it's not unsafe at all. The kind of person who would think that does not strike me as someone who's agnostic about GMOs in the first place.

            1. A: The reason that many consumers will be misled is that labels on foods (often required by the FDA or USDA) are seen as providing nutritional information or function as warnings, e.g., "may contain nuts," or "gluten free." The anti-biotech activists fully (and gleefully) expect that consumers will be misled into treating GMO labeling as some kind of warning labels.

          2. 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


            It isn't the job of a company to "defend its customers against activist disinformation"...

            It's the job of a company to turn product into profit. They aren't hiding anything here. They agree with the science that GMOs are safe and forthrightly admit they are changing due to consumer demand.

            It ain't their job to fix stupid.

            1. FdA: What about this part? ...has instead chosen to mislead consumers about the safety of modern biotech agriculture.

              1. I'd sue for product disparagement.

              2. I'm assuming you mean the slogan on the box is misleading customers.

                It's technically correct. There are no GMOs and breakfast isn't a science experiment. Misleading? Meh. They are catering to the beliefs of their misguided customers. They've freely admitted to doing this to fill demand AND they truly believe GMOs are safe.

                A friend and I looked into patenting a "green" cell phone battery charger that stopped using electricity when there was no demand. If I marketed this as green while knowing Global Warming to be a farce, am I immoral for providing the customer with what they are asking for?

                1. The difference, I think, is that in the case of your battery charger reduced energy use is still a good thing in many ways including environmentally, even if you don't think CO2 is a pollutant. There is a benefit, if fairly small. But in the case of GMO-free cereal there is no real benefit, so it is more misleading.

  2. How much more will a box of Cheerios cost after the switch?

    1. It depends on whether you buy it at Whole Foods, where, apparently, it can be sold now!

    2. Cheerios was mostly made from Oats, so the change is pretty trivial. It won't appreciably effect costs. However, GMI could probably charge more for it, but they'll probably try and increase market share. Whole Foods, etc.

      1. Yeah, I heard something about this this morning and the reason they chose Cheerios for this is that there aren't any GMO oats, so only minor ingredients had to change.

  3. Cereal makers are looking for ways to differentiate their product, especially when the grocers themselves are stocking no name knockoffs on the cereal aisle at cheaper prices.

    I have no doubt that this was initiated by anti-GMO activists like Bailey says, but it seems like it would make a lot of sense for General Mills to cash in on that free advertising the anti-GMO people are creating.

    And free advertising seems to be what that amounts to. I can see General Mills saying, "They're convincing a lot of people to only buy non-GMO products? Awesome! We've been trying to brand Cheerios as the healthy alternative since day one anyway".

  4. The customer is always right even when the are stupid.

    You have to sell what the customer wants (and don't sell what the customer doesn't want) if you want to get the customer's money.

  5. I will no longer be buying cheerios due to their revealed opposition to humanity.

  6. Ye gods. So if enough people were dumb enough to be scared of dihydrogen monoxide, they'd extract all of it from their products?

    I get having to deal with consumer behavior, even of the irrational sort, but if these companies stuck to their guns, what's going to happen? Everyone is going to rush to buy expensive non-GMO products? Even if they did, it's just another baseless fad. No science against GMOs at all.

    1. The opposition to GMO products is an emotional response. No amount of facts, logic or reason can persuade someone out of a position they arrived at through emotion.

      1. Most of the grains we eat, for example, have no resemblance to what we found originally in nature--wheat, maize, etc. So what's the big deal?

        1. ..."So what's the big deal?"

          Ignorant emotionalism.
          But so long as there's no coercion, I gotta treat this the same as folks claiming evolution is a fraud; they're welcome to their ignorance.

          1. Genetic modification is a really cool thing. When we're living two thousand years in perfect health and glow in the dark, that'll be because of genetic engineering of us. Why not our food, too?

            It's not that I don't think we should exercise reasonable caution when tampering with such things, but the key word is "reasonable."

            1. Had I been GM, I'd have seriously considered having two separate lines. When this fad blows over, they'll be in a position to phase out the nonsense as demand weakens.

              Besides, I buy GMO and non-organic intentionally as an act of defiance. I tend to want to reward those who've saved the world from starvation.

              1. Woah, you allow your perception of the producer to influence your choice of purchase? Are you some sort of reason-hating moron or something?

              2. "Each bite genetically improved through the magic of science!"

                1. Better living through chemicals.

                  Brought to you by the DuPont Corporation, makers of Napalm and Spandex...both designed to stick to the human skin.

                  1. Say, Spandex. . .SpaceX. Hmmmmm.

        2. Chemicals! Radiation! Genetic manipulation! Scientists paid by big profit-seeking corporations! Big Agra putting humble farmers out of business!

          1. "Big Agra putting humble farmers out of business!"
            Tangential issue, but I'm really tired of the romantic 'family farmer' bullshit.
            Can't make money on your 10-acre spread? Go sell housewares in Walmart.

            1. There's value to locally grown produce--at least some kinds--so people will continue to buy it. We have a share with a farmers' communist collective of some sort, not for some "organic" or "non-GMO" or "support you local farmer" reason but because we like fresh produce. It is better, usually, than grocery store stuff.

              1. Most of the vegetable I eat were flash-frozen at peak ripeness by some big profit-seeking corporation.

                1. Fine but not the same. With some kinds of produce, it's night and day the difference. Of course, there's a premium to be paid for quality, most times.

                  We pick a shit-ton of blueberries in the spring down here and freeze them ourselves. I have no idea why, but they are insanely superior to frozen bags of blueberries from the grocery store. We freeze them unwashed and separated (flat on a baking sheet), then move them to a ziplock bag, so maybe it's just the freezing methodology.

                  1. If I buy fresh vegetables I end up throwing a lot of it away, so buy frozen and just heat what I need. I really don't like to waste food if I can help it.

                    1. It depends on your situation. The share option is tough unless you have a sizable family. I bought less produce when I was single for sure.

      2. Any taste-based decision is the same way.

    2. There sure was a lot of rush to buy "organic" and gluten free. Ron Bailey hates capitalism.

      1. What General Mills should've done was sold a much higher-priced, "organic" version of Cheerios, which, naturally, would be non-GMO and fair-trade certified and whatever other bullshit is needed to sell it for $10/box.

        1. GM has competitors. They are attempting to beat their competition by providing value (imagined or not) to the customer.

          1. All value is imagined.

            1. All value is imagined.

              Well, subjective, anyway.

              1. I don't see a difference.

                1. What I consider valuable really is valuable to me.

                  1. I never said that it being all in your head made it any less real.

          2. I get it, but I don't like it, anyway. Not a shareholder, so easy for me to say. It doesn't seem to me that the anti-GMO thing is really that big--it's just loud.

  7. If they want to do that, fine. If it increases their prices and makes them uncompetitive in the cereal market (with no discernible amont of brand loyalty by consumers), its their funeral.

    I couldn't honestly tell you if the cereal I buy is General Mills or Post or some other brand. All I know if I'm buying the cheapest ones that I still enjoy.

  8. For all the cinnamon cereal addicts out there, the apple cinnamon Cheerios won't be going GMO-free.

  9. Alternate headline: General Mills acknowledges substantial consumer demand for GMO-free products; positions self to meet demand.

    1. Right, and I understand that, but I still think the angle was to sell more expensive Cheerios with a non-GMO premium tossed in.

  10. Will Cheerios still give me violent diarrhea?

  11. General Mills will be justly punished when the price of their cereal rises, because they have to use more expensive ingredients, and people stop eating it.

    What kind of anti-GMO progtard eats cheerios anyway?
    They won't even get a sales blip out of this.
    The people behind the letter writing campaign wouldn't touch a bowl of Cheerios with a 10 foot digeridoo.

  12. This should be bad news for the anti-GMO crowd. This is the free market solution - label your product "GMO free" - rather than the "frankenfood" solution which is to send men with guns to make producers label their food with "Contains GMO materials." Free marketers now have a voluntary solution to prove that there is no need for government coercion to "protect" consumers from GMO.

  13. Remember kids, it's the Republicans who are anti-science.

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