General Mills begins selling Cheerios without GM ingredients

General Mills Inc. said it has stopped using genetically modified (GM) ingredients in the popular breakfast cereal Cheerios as the U.S. branded-foods manufacturer hopes the move will firm up customer loyalty in the face of growing opposition to such additives.

Many activists and critics have cited studies suggesting GM crops are not safe for people and animals who consume them.

Some activist groups opposing GM food also say the crops create environmental problems by encouraging more use of certain agrochemicals, and consumers should have the right to know what they are buying.

However, General Mills, which also makes Betty Crocker dessert mixes and Yoplait yogurt, said in a company blog post on Thursday that its decision on ingredients was not driven by safety concerns and “was never about pressure” from critics.

“It’s not about safety. Biotech seeds, also known as genetically modified seeds, have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in global food crops for almost 20 years,” the General Mills blog said.

The Minneapolis-based company said it has begun using non-GM cornstarch and non-GM sugar in Cheerios, adding that oats, the primary ingredient, is a crop that is not grown from genetically modified seeds.

“Why change anything at all? It’s simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it,” the company said in its blog post, credited to Tom Forsythe, the company’s vice-president for global communications.

“General Mills offers non-GM choices in most of our major categories in the U.S., and now we can say the same about the ingredients in original Cheerios.”

In November, a Washington state ballot measure that would have required labeling of foods containing GM crops did not win wide approval.

General Mills, Nestle USA, PepsiCo, Monsanto, DuPont and other corporate giants were key contributors in a consortium raising roughly US$22 million to campaign against the bill. — Reuters

Related story:
After Washington GMO vote, both sides eye national fight, Nov. 8, 2013

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