- Cheerios are now GMO free. General Mills said it quietly began making its original flavor Cheerios without genetically modified ingredients several weeks ago. The GMO-free version will appear on store shelves within days.
- Boxes of original Cheerios will now display the phrase "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients." Because Cheerios are made in facilities that also manufacture GMO foods, the boxes will also contain a warning that they may contain trace amounts of GMO foods.
- To go GMO-freee, General Mills had to switch cornstarch and sugar. Oats are Cheerios' primary ingredient, and GMO oats do not exist.
- Other flavors of Cheerios such as Multi Grain and Apple Cinnamon varieties will still contain GMO ingredients.
There's no doubt that this is a significant move that will add to the pressure on food manufacturers to distance themselves from GMO crops. And it adds momentum to the movement to ban GMO and/or to require labeling. And although General Mills must now also face that building pressure and added momentum, the company decided this move was worth the trouble.
Why would GM do that? We'd love to have been a fly on the wall during the no-doubt heated discussions at GM that led to this decision. Alas, we were not. But as we have noted before, much of "big food" seems to be losing its stomach for the GMO battle. Perhaps that was a factor.
Regardless of the reasoning, we must applaud General Mills. Going GMO-free is a tough decision. But we think it was the right one ... particularly for a product that is the first "finger food" eaten by millions of babies across the world. The risk of continuing to make that particular product with GMO ingredients is too high -- certainly in terms of marketing, and perhaps in terms of health.