About a year ago, Anti-GMO activists made Cheerios the subject of a major social media campaign, pressuring them to remove GMOs from Cheerios. This product was selected in part because it is not only one of the leading cereal brands in America, but because it is one of the first foods introduced to weaning toddlers. In the last few weeks, General Mills, the makers of Cheerios, announced that original Cheerios will no longer contain any GMO products.
This will not change the recipe very much, since the main ingredient is whole grain oats, and there are no GM oats at this time. The bulk of GMO foods are corn and soy, although sugar derived from beets may also be GM. General Mills CEO Tom Forsythe says that moving forward, the corn starch and the sugar will both be GMO-free.
Non-GMO Cheerios have been sold in Europe for years (Europeans seem to be less tolerant of GMOs than Americans), but in general GMO foods are cheaper to acquire. Because of this, even a change to minor ingredients represents a significant investment. (You’ll also notice the price increase if you start purposely buying non-GMO soy and corn products, which I recommend whenever possible.)
The fact that the company considered this to be a worthwhile investment is interesting to me, and may signify that the public is becoming more aware of the GMO controversy. GMO foods are in as much as 80% of the processed foods we eat, largely because soy and corn are such ubiquitous ingredients. Although studies still have not proven any direct causation between GMO foods and the array of exploding GI problems in the last few decades, to me the correlative evidence is compelling enough that I think it’s worthwhile to avoid them, and counsel my patients to do the same. (I’m against processed foods in almost every case anyway, whether or not it contains GMO foods.)
Apparently I am not alone: some 90% of Americans also believe GMOs to be unsafe, 93% are in favor of federal labeling laws, and 57% say they would be less likely to buy GMO foods if they were labeled as such. Given this tide of public opinion, Cheerios may be the harbinger for other major companies to follow suit: in the past year, both Chipotle and Kashi have also announced their intentions to phase out GMO ingredients.
Go thank Cheerios for their efforts here!