Organic Consumers Association

Tell General Mills and Cheerios: Label GMOs! Better Yet, Go Organic!

General Mills has so far spent almost $2 million to keep GMO labels off its GMO-contaminated products. Now the junk-food cereal maker hopes to cash in on a new label on its original Cheerios that touts, of all things, “no GMOs.”

Tell General Mills and Cheerios: Please Label All of your Products that Contain GMOs. Better Yet, Get GMOs Out of All your Brands!

Last week (Jan. 2) General Mills announced on its website that its “familiar yellow boxes of original Cheerios now say “not made with genetically modified ingredients.” Why the change? “We did it because we think consumers may embrace it.”

We think they did it to make more money. (The non-GMO foods market is forecast to grow 13 percent annually, and make up about 30 percent of food and beverage sales—totaling $264 billion—by 2017, according to Packaged Facts).

But we also think their reasons were more complicated than that. We think the move is part of the food industry’s scheme to preempt state labeling laws with a weak, watered-down federal “solution” to GMO labeling. Why? Because nowhere does General Mills state that the company will verify that Cheerios is GMO-free, either through a system of signed affidavits or a third-party testing mechanism, such as the Non-GMO Project. 

Nope. General Mills just wants you to believe them, praise them, even, for making Cheerios GMO-free. Without having to verify that they’ve changed one single ingredient.

We also think that a company as big as General Mills can do a lot better than profiting off of the anti-GMO movement (while spending millions to defeat it) by making a small, largely insignificant change to a popular product whose nutritional profile is weak to begin with.

For starters, the cereal maker should stop pouring millions into campaigns to defeat GMO labeling laws. The company spent $1.2 million in California to defeat proposition 37, and another $598,819 in Washington State, (illegally laundered through the Grocery Manufacturers Association) to defeat I-522. Now it wants our praise for what is clearly a marketing ploy?

Next, General Mills should get GMOs out of all of its products—just like it has kept GMOs out of all the products it sells in the European Union. But when questioned by the media about going non-GMO with other brands, the company said:

“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.”

Difficult? Initially, maybe. But impossible? We all know the rules of supply and demand. If companies like General Mills demand non-GMO ingredients for their products, those ingredients will show up in the market. And prices will eventually be competitive.

But instead of pressuring the marketplace for non-GMO sources, the company plans to continue selling GMO-contaminated junk cereals, such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties, Trix, Kix, Chex and Lucky Charms—brands that clearly target kids.

General Mills is sticking to its story that GMOs are perfectly safe. The company is just eliminating the tiny bit of GMO-tainted cornstarch and sugar in its original Cheerios. Because, well, it’s good publicity, no?

What we’d really like to see is for General Mills to make its Cheerios brand—and all of its brands—independently verified GMO-free. Or better yet, organic!