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Q:
General Mills announced Cheerios will now have a nonGMO version. What is the GMO industrys response to this news?
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A:Expert Answer

We believe food companies have the right to select the ingredients that are best for their markets, just as farmers have the right to choose the seeds that are right for their businesses.  We appreciated General Mills transparency in this regard.   General Mills did a good job explaining the change and reinforcing the safety of GMOs.  (General Mills’ statements are available online: http://blog.generalmills.com/2014/01/the-one-and-only-cheerios  and http://cheerios.com/en/Articles/cheerios-and-gmos.)  General Mills’ position on GMOs has not changed. (General Mills’ position on GMOs is available online: http://www.generalmills.com/Home/ChannelG/on_biotechnology.aspx.) This was a marketing decision.

 

We stand by the nutrition and safety of products containing GMO ingredients, and we support companies’ and consumers’ rights to choose non-GMO foods.  In a sense, making this new option available to consumers is consistent with our support for market-based voluntary labeling and demonstrates that the voluntary system we have in place works.  This is a good example of how food companies can voluntarily and truthfully label products and provide choices for their customers. (See other responses on the industry’s position on labeling: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/why-are-companies-against-gmo-labeling-if-its-safe-they-shouldnt-care-whether-they-have-label-it.) We believe that consumers should have factual information to make informed choices.

 

It might help to provide here some additional technical information.  Since the primary ingredient in Cheerios is oats, and oats are not grown from genetically modified seed, General Mills will be changing how it sources and handles two of the cereal’s minor ingredients – corn starch and sugar.  The corn starch will now be derived from conventionally bred corn, and the sugar will come from sugar cane, rather than sugar beets. 

 

Before the change, the corn starch and the sugar were derived from GMO crops. However, these ingredients are highly processed and one cannot tell the difference between GMO and non-GMO sugar or starch.  They are chemically the same.

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