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How to create tipping points to get GMOs out of popular cereals

What happens when a huge food manufacturing company makes changes to its sourcing as Cheerios just did when it announced it is taking out GMO ingredients but only from its original flavor of Cheerios, at least at this time?

How to create tipping points to get GMOs out of popular cereals.
Women from Friends of The Earth hold placards outside Parliament in a demonstration against GM crops, February 23, 2005 in London. (Photo by Graeme Robertson/Getty Images).

A company's sourcing refers to not only from where it gets its grains, but also whether it uses cane sugar which usually is not GMO or whether any given company uses GMO beet sugar. And there's other additives in various companies' cereals. When it comes to persuading companies to change to GMO ingredients, how powerful are consumers and organizations made up of consumers who create tipping points?

Green Americans who don't want GMOs in their foods, create tipping points, according to the site, "How Green Americans Create Tipping Points." Green America is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. (It went by the name "Co-op America" until January 1, 2009.) Its mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

The organization's vision is to work for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the bounty of the Earth is preserved for all the generations to come. You can check out the site, "Green America: Economic Action for a Just Planet."

Green America focuses our campaigns on hitting irresponsible companies from multiple angles. The goal is to engineer a market tipping point in favor of social and environmental responsibility, and tip the company toward green.

Here are three examples of the results of its campaigns to motivate corporations to change for the better of humankind and health, according to the Green America website.

1. Raise the Bar, Hershey

The campaign: Get Hershey to eliminate child labor from its supply chain through Fair Trade certification. Individuals: For months, we got tens of thousands of potential customers to bombard Hershey with e-mails, phone calls, petitions, student letters, and Facebook messages, demanding that it cut its ties to child labor.

Regarding the media, the organization staged several protests in front of Hershey headquarters, drawing considerable media attention. As far as it affects shareholders: Hershey owns a majority of its own stock, making it difficult to pressure the company through this avenue. Elizabeth O’Connell spoke to company management about the effect of its ties to child labor on its bottom line at the company’s annual meeting last year.

Green America worked with businesses. For example, the organization worked with its Green Business Network to get over 40 food co-ops to pledge not to carry Hershey products. Then the organization asked Whole Foods to follow suit. When it refused, we followed up with thousands of emails to Whole Foods managers from our individual members. After eight days, Whole Foods pulled Hershey’s Scharffen Berger line from its shelves.

The measurable results revealed that within a week of Whole Foods’ announcement, Hershey buckled and agreed to certify 100% of its cocoa by the year 2020

What Green America does includes empowering individuals to make purchasing and investing choices that promote social justice and environmental sustainability. The organization demands an end to corporate irresponsibility through collective economic action.

Green America promotes green and fair trade business principles while building the market for businesses adhering to these principles. And it helps builds sustainable communities in the US and abroad.

Cheerios, original flavor, changes to non-GMO ingredients

Cheerios will take out the GMO ingredients only in its original flavor, but not in any other Cheerios flavor, such as Multigrain or Apple Cinnamon versions. The change is in response to consumer demand, according to the January 3, 2013 USA Today news article, "Cheerios drops genetically modified ingredients."

If it weren't for the constant pressure from activist groups and general consumers, General Mills may or may not have stopped using genetically modified ingredients to make its original Cheerios cereal. But the other flavors such as multigrain? Consumers figure the word multigrain itself means many different grains, and that flavor will not be changed at least for the present time, and neither will the sugar-whacked flavors such as Apple Cinnamon. Those will not be 'reverted' to a non GMO status. See, "Cheerios Now GMO-Free: Will General Mills Remove GMO Corn ."

Oat grain itself that's used by Cheerios is not GMO, but what about all the other ingredients?

Since Cheerios is supposed to be an oat cereal, it should be common knowledge that the oats used to make Cheerios have never contained any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What happened is that the company made changes to its sourcing. In the sugar-added flavors, at least now you will get sugar that's non-GMO pure cane sugar instead of beet sugar, according to the USA Today article, "Cheerios drops genetically modified ingredients." But consumers are thinking, why is sugar added in the first place to cereal?

If you give your baby a cereal without sugar, it won't get hooked on the taste of sugar. So why add it? If you want sweet taste with your cheerios, it's just as easy to add a few blueberries or raisins than have to metabolize any type of added sugar to cereals. Want oats by itself? Buy raw organic whole oat groats and cook them into a cereal or porridge or eat them like a rice pilaf as people do in other countries or as folk did a century ago.

You can buy in most natural food stores a package of organic whole oat groats or look in the bulk bins. The real issue is people rush out in the morning without having time to cook cereals the old fashioned way, slow simmering or steaming. You could make the whole oat groats the night before, put it in the refrigerator, and warm it up in the morning.

Company listened to consumers' suggestions

As far as General Mills taking out the GMO ingredients only from the original Cheerios flavor, several weeks ago the company made the changes. What's good news is that the company does listen to suggestions of consumers. But has the company gone far enough in providing the heart-healthy grains it advertises on TV? Well, at least the shoppers' voices are heard, and some changes have been made. It's a good start.

Too many companies are listening more too scientific studies that says GMOs are safe and not listening enough to scientific studies that says GMOs are not safe. For example see, "Longest-Running GMO Safety Study Finds Tumors in Rats." Check out the PDF format article, "Genetically Engineered Foods FAQ - The Alliance for Natural Health."

Consumers are having a difficult time asking companies to label all foods that do contain GMOs ingredients such as corn, wheat, or soy

Here, in the Sacramento area, some food markets are requiring suppliers to label food products with GMOs. For example, in 2012, nationally, Whole Foods became the first national grocery chain to require all of its suppliers to label all products that contain GMOs by 2018. In 2013 the restaurant chain, Chipotle announced plans to phase out GMOs. If you buy Kashi whole grains cereals and other grain products, it's also news that the company is taking action to phase out GMOs.

When it comes to huge corporations such as General Mills, at least this week it has no plans to phase out GMOs from its other cereals in the U.SA. But if you travel to Europe, you'll notice that overseas most Cheerios varieties sold in Europe are made without GMOs. Have you ever wondered why it's okay to have them taken out in Europe but not here in the USA where the companies are based?

Did you know that some cereals that add sugar to cereals and other products may use beet sugar instead of non GMO cane sugar? Some people worry about finding no added sugar products that don't contain artificial sweeteners but when they see beet sugar, they're thinking of organic beets. But no, the beet sugar that some companies use usually is GMO beet sugar, not evaporated organic beet juice. And sugar beets are a different variety from supermarket beets you eat or juice.

GMO ingredients added to non-organic foods usually come from GMO seeds in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar. Cereal manufacturers usually aren't moving en mass to organic non-GMO unless they already say that they're ingredients are all non GMO. In some cases you have some cereal varieties non GMO and others GMO because of the grains or the sugar.

On the other hand, just because a huge manufacturing company such as General Mills taking a step toward making the original variety of Cheerios non GMO might give other food makers a bright idea to please a lot of consumers, if they listen to consumers and activist groups instead of thinking of these groups as somehow marginal or eccentric. For decades, numerous huge food manufacturing companies that serve large populations of the general public may have preconceived notions of what the great mass of public wants in a particular type of food such as a cereal.

Besides taste, a lot of people don't want grain brains and wheat bellies from added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or GMO grains that studies say don't make them a lot healthier. The standard Western diet is not considered healthy by many who don't have the type of genes where they can eat almost anything and live beyond a century in good health.

At least the huge corporations are listening to green economy activist groups instead of thinking of them as unwashed, dizzy, half-asleep hippie types living off the dole. Check out the excellent research by groups such as Green America, "Green America: Economic Action for a Just Planet." Or see, "Green Business Directory Featuring Sustainable Business Products."

What will be the next major brand of packaged food eaten by millions to step up to the non GMO plate?

How many other companies will be inspired by General Mills original Cheerios flavor to move to non-GMO in all ingredients? And would the smaller non-GMO cereal manufacturers competing with them be happy about that when until now, they had a corner of the market of consumers who went out of their way to find non GMO products?

If you check out sites such as "Green America," you can read about how in 2012-2013, social media helped to bring consumers together, how the group acted as a catalyst, to ask General Mills to come out with a non-GMO version/flavor of Cheerios. Often a baby's first solid food is eating Cheerios off of a sanitized food tray placed on a high chair. At least you see that in so may TV ads about Cheerios.

The ad shows a baby eating one Cherrio morsel at a time, and comely music is played while the word 'love' appears on the screen as a woman's soft, motherly voice hums a few bars of a tune without words. Cheerios is selling motherly love and protection in food. So shouldn't the baby be getting non GMO ingredients as nature made before humans changed the way seeds react to environment? Of course. See, "."

Manufacturers advertise taste but rarely mention how many ways the various ingredients contribute to health

In advertising food products, taste is what is broadcast to the public. As far as Cheerios, the taste is the same. What consumers like about taste is that it's not supposed to change. The point is if it's not broken, you don't change it, as far as taste goes. But what consumers don't want is for others to come along with the notion that if it's not broken and it's selling well, you bring in somebody who will break it and make new rules and new ingredients and change the taste.

No, that's not going to happen. Before GMO existed, there first was the taste, and with the GMO ingredients not in there any more, the taste is the same as always generation before generation. The point is you don't need to genetically modify any ingredients to create a specific taste if people like the taste of what non GMO ingredients taste like in the first place. And so, Cheerios original flavor will not have GMO ingredients. But at this time, the other Cheerios flavors such as Apple Cinnamon or Multigrain will still have the GMOs.

To get a handle on what other cereals for the present time have GMOs see, "Top Breakfast Cereals that Contain Monsanto's GMO Corn." Or check out, "The top 10 breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto's GMO." Considering the date on the article, you need to find out whether things changed since last year on any of the cereals listed. What shoppers need to know is that only 1% of U.S. cropland is organic and around 70% of packaged foods contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms), according to the site, "Our Commitment - Kashi." Also, you can read articles such as, "Study Finds GMOs Hiding In “GMO-Free” Cereals | Food Renegade."

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