Non-GMO Cheerios: A Sign of the Future?

Cheerios (Old School)Environmentalists are calling it a victory. General Mills, however, says it’s just a recipe change.

In a recent blog post, GMO Inside.org took credit for General Mills’ statement last week that it was making its regular Cheerios out of non-genetically modified sources (GMOs) – a change from its other Cheerios products, which do contain GMOs.

“Cheerios’ principal ingredient has always been whole grain oats, and there are no GMO oats,” says General Mills.

That’s true. According to Quaker Oats, which is owned by Pepsico, it doesn’t use GMO oats, either. There are no GMO-friendly oats on the market.

But the sourcing change that has given environmental groups like GMO Inside reason to crow about isn’t the oats but those other, seemingly insignificant additives that make the Cheerios taste good: sugar and cornstarch.

“So we were able to change how we source and handle ingredients to ensure that the cornstarch for original Cheerios comes only from non-GMO corn, and our sugar is only non-GMO pure cane sugar,” admitted GM.

It’s a change that, however much GM wants to downplay, is significant. According to the website NonGMOProject.org, approximately 95 percent of all sugar made from beets (the main source for sugar in manufactured products) in 2010 came from GMO sources. Approximately 88 percent of corn and corn products were GMO in 2011.

So why wouldn’t GM want to make a big deal over this? As Mike Adams on NaturalNews.com points out, this is so not-an-issue to GM that it hasn’t even announced the change on its cereal boxes.

“For starters, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the announcement about General Mills adding any sort of ‘non-GMO’ label to Cheerios boxes,” notes Adams. “It seems as if General Mills wants Cheerios to be secretly non-GMO while avoiding bringing any real attention to the issue.”

Maybe. But it may also have to do with the less-than-savory press that GM recently received for its objections to state laws regulating GMOs. According to GM, its objections concerning states, such as Washington, regulating GMOs had nothing to do with its position on consumer choice and everything to do with the way the issue is handled.

Still, the recipe change is a sign that GM knows that this is a hot-button issue for consumers, and that an increasing number are pushing for state laws that will give the public the freedom to decide whether or not to buy products containing GMOs. With the increasing demand for non-GMO products both here in North America and in Europe, tweaking the Cheerios recipe is not only a smart way to see how the market responds, but also a savvy way to show support for consumer advocacy.

Image credit: TheImpulsiveBuy

Jan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.