FoodEater's picture
Why did General Mills say only Cheerios original could have GMOs removed and that it would be impossible to remove GMO from their other food products? Is it true that oats are not genetically modified and is that how Cheerios can have a nonGMO version?

A:Expert Answer

The recent General Mills announcement sparked a lively conversation on GMO Answers. In fact, several experts responded to the announcement that Cheerios will no longer include GM ingredients.


To answer your first question about removing GM ingredients, please see an excerpt from a response from Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information:


“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: and General Mills’ position on GMOs has not changed. (General Mills’ position on GMOs is available online: This was a marketing decision…”


Your question is also addressed in the FAQ section of the Cheerios website (also linked in the response above). An excerpt is below:


“Q: Will you make all varieties of Cheerios with non-GM ingredients?”


“A: It’s the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible – and even that required significant investment over nearly a year.  Cheerios’ principal ingredient has always been whole grain oats, and there are no GMO oats.  We use just a small amount of corn starch in cooking, and just one gram of sugar per serving for taste.  So we were able to change how we source and handle ingredients to ensure that the corn starch for original Cheerios comes only from non-GMO corn, and our sugar is only non-GMO pure cane sugar.  For our other cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible. General Mills produces several organic cereals that by definition cannot use GM ingredients – and sell those products nationally – so we already offer consumers a wide range of non-GM cereal choices.”


Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of Food Science and Human Nutrition and associate dean of Graduate Programs for the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, also provides a response about the Cheerios ingredient changes. Here is an excerpt:


“Basically, this was not hard for General Mills to do, since the only possible GMO ingredients in Cheerios would be cornstarch and sugar. There are no GMO oats or wheat, which are the other ingredients. My personal thought is that General Mills is tapping into the market of moms who see Cheerios as a safe first food for their babies, and it wants to appease that market. Using a ‘no-GMO’ label has been allowed by the FDA for years, so this did not require any new regulations. I will be curious to see how the other members of the industry respond; likely, there will be some other brands jumping onto this bandwagon. I am sad to see that, because it really is continuing to spread that fear among consumers that there must be something unsafe about GMOs if the industry is now taking them out of its foods.”


You can read the full article here:


WheatLover's picture

It's true that oats are not genetically modified. However all of the Cheerios cereals have corn listed as an ingredient, mostly in the form of corn starch but some have whole grain corn, corn syrup and/or corn meal, and most corn in the US is genetically modified.