Genetically Modified Ingredients Removed From Cheerios
I’ve talked about genetic modification in our foods many times before. I’ve explained how to identify genetically modified ingredients here and here as well as discussed the safety of genetic modification here. Sandra Lee explained the science behind genetic modification in this video and talked with me on Eat Well to Live Well with Kellie Hill – listen here. It looks like the grass roots efforts to keep genetically modified organisms out of the American food system is beginning to find a bit of a foothold. General Mills decided last month to remove all genetically modified organisms from the original Cheerios recipe. So, what does this mean?
Genetic Modification and Cheerios
Let’s start with the fact that genetically modified organisms are not allowed in many other countries so General Mills was able to make Cheerios without genetically modified for them and now is expanding this courtesy to the United States. More than 60 countries, including Australia, the European Union, and Japan, have established genetic modification labeling laws. With this one product, Cheerios, General Mills is allowing American consumer to have the same quality as they provide other worldwide consumers.
Yet, corn starch is the second ingredient and genetically modified corn is one of the United States majorly subsidized food crops. It’s unclear at this time what effect this will have on farmers, especially as the risks for cross contamination are still being debated and fought throughout the United States. To cover themselves, there is a disclaimer on the new boxes that states there may be some genetically modified ingredients under the asterisks that says there’s no genetically modified ingredients. Why is zero never really zero in America?
Unfortunately other cereals made by General Mills under the Cheerios label, such as Honey Nut Cheerios will still use genetically modified corn starch and sugar cane. So, it’s only a step folks. But, it is a step we need to acknowledge.
Change of Direction Regarding Genetic Modification
What is very interesting is that General Mills spent millions of dollars opposing genetic modification labeling initiatives in California and Washington. And now, it’s the largest American company to reject genetically modified organism in one of its brands. This comes on the heels of other companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, which in 2013 removed genetically modified ingredients from its products, and Chipotle which announced it would gradually eliminate genetically modified organisms from its restaurant menu during 2014.
Impact of Genetic Modification
According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85% of U.S. corn is genetically modified. 91% of soybeans are genetically modified, and 88% of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). It is estimated 75-80% of processed foods – yes, what you can purchase your local grocery shelves and in restaurants – contain some type of genetically modified organism.
Supporters of genetic modification feel that engineering seeds in a lab is essential to building crops that will resist disease. Companies like Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsico, and others have put a lot of money into this biotech field as well as millions into defeating labeling of genetically modified ingredients initiatives. In just Washington these companies spent $22 million to defeat a labeling initiative, much more than the $7 million spent on the groups trying to require labeling of genetically modified organisms in our foods. Multiple polls from 2013 found the American public overwhelmingly in favor of labeling products featuring genetically modified organisms. A New York Times survey showed 93% support for labeling, and a Washington Post poll indicated 94% in favor. So, maybe General Mills is giving the public what it really wants. And maybe other companies will follow suit, forcing the biotech companies to change the way we farm. We can only hope.