General Mills announced today (Jan. 3, 2014) the company is taking out two genetically modified (GM) ingredients from its original Cheerios cereal by removing genetically modified cornstarch and switching to pure cane sugar. It is one of many ingredient switches being prompted by social networking campaigns. In Aug. 2012, Starbucks decided to take out red-dye, made from carmine (crushed beetles), from the popular Strawberry Frappuccino after consumers gave it a thumbs down on facebook and twitter. Last month, Whole Foods dropped the Chobani Greek yogurt line because of consumer pressure about GM ingredients.
"It's the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible - and even that required significant investment over nearly a year," and "we were able to change how we source and handle ingredients to ensure 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 said in a statement.
One year ago, in November 2012, GMO Inside starting calling on consumers to put pressure on General Mills to make Cheerios without GMOs due to concerns over the health and environmental impacts of GMOs. Cheerios are a top selling cereal in the U.S. and often one of the first solid foods fed to children. Parents and children alike are taking on the issue of transparency in food labeling and voicing their opinions on facebook and twitter – companies like General Mills are listening (see the video to hear from an 11-year old with strong opinions on GM ingredients).
As soon as the campaign launched, tens of thousands of consumers started flooding Cheerios' Facebook page with concerned comments regarding GMOs in Cheerios, and used an app put out by Cheerios to spell out anti-GMO messages in the Cheerios font. As many as 40,000 facebook fans took part in the GMO Inside campaign.
Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen stated: "Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills. Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-GMO and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand."
John W Roulac, GMO Inside co-founder and co-chair stated: "This is a huge victory for the non-GMO movement. I want to thank all the "GMO Insiders for using social media to convince America's largest packed food brand to go non-GMO with a major product. History is being made today and more food brands will rush towards non-GMO foods. "
GMO Inside, a campaign of national non-profit organization Green America, welcomed the news that General Mills is now producing original Cheerios without GMOs, and is encouraging consumers to let General Mills know that now is the time to make all Cheerios non-GMO. In addition to original Cheerios, General Mills manufactures 11 other varieties of Cheerios for sale in the U.S., including highly popular Honey Nut Cheerios, and the other 11 varieties continue to include GMOs. General Mills admits on its website that all Cheerios cereals sold in Europe are made without GMOs, and increasingly, U.S. consumers will be calling on General Mills to make all its cereals non-GMO in the U.S. as well.