An environmental group declared victory on Thursday after General Mills said its regular, yellow-boxed Cheerios will be made without genetically modified ingredients.
GMO Inside, the campaign arm of Green America, began pressuring the cereal giant to rid Cheerios of GMOs about a year ago, urging consumers to post comments on the brand's Facebook page and email and call General Mills.
In a statement posted on a Cheerios brand web site on Thursday, General Mills stated that while the formula for the cereal has not changed (there are no GMO oat varieties), the company has altered how it sources other ingredients to ensure that the cereal is GMO-free. The measures include ensuring that the "corn starch for original Cheerios comes only from non-GMO corn, and our sugar is only non-GMO pure cane sugar," the company stated.
A General Mills spokesman said the cereal changed its production process several weeks ago and that the GMO-free version will soon be hitting stores.
GMO Inside co-founder John Roulac in a statement called the move a "huge victory for the non-GMO movement," but called on Cheerios to make all of its varieties non-GMO. General Mills stated that "for our other cereals, the widespread use of [genetically modified] seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible."
Some 70% to 80% of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients, including corn, soybeans and sugar beets. Proponents of GMO labeling say that genetically engineered foods have not been proven safe and that consumers should have a right to know what is in their food. Opponents counter that such claims are not scientifically justified and would raise food costs.
In November, voters in the state of Washington rejected a ballot measure that would have required GMO labeling. California voters shot down a similar measure in 2012. But pressure from advocacy groups is having an impact in other ways. Whole Foods, for instance, plans to stop selling Chobani yogurt in part to make way for other brands that don't include GMOs, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.