Cheerios Labeling “Has Emboldened, Not Appeased, Anti-technology Activists”

There continues to be buzz in the media over General Mills’s January 2 announcement to source its original Cheerios’ tiny amount of sugar and corn starch from non-GMO crops.

The Wall Street Journal published this week an op-ed titled, “General Mills Has a Soggy Idea for Cheerios – by labeling the cereal as non-genetically modified, the company has only emboldened its critics.”Written by Dr. Henry Miller, founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology, and Mr. Gregory Conko, executive director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the piece greatly demonstrates how the recent General Mills decision to label Cheerios, as containing no ingredients from GMOs, only fuels rather than appeases the rhetoric of the anti-GMO activists.

“Whatever the motivation, General Mills may find that its move will neither catch on with ‘natural foods’ devotees-who are unlikely to choose a highly processed, nonorganic breakfast food-nor silence anti-technology activists…

“Green America said the company’s move is merely ‘the first step for General Mills.’ Having smelled blood in the water, the sharks are now circling-and that may be the least of General Mills’ worries.”

In fact, GMO Inside, an anti-biotechnology group, has taken credit for the General Mills decision and is now urging for the company to use non GMO ingredients in Honey Nut Cheerios.

General Mills emphasizes that its decision is “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.”

In General Mill’s “Cheerios and GMOs: FAQs” document, GM says it has no intentions of using non-GMO ingredients in its other top-selling cereals.  General Mills also links to its position on GMOs (which it supports) and state-based labeling laws (which it opposes).

The Wall Street Journal op-ed also points out the burdensome costs that this decision will place on consumers which is ironic since there are currently no GM oats and “the bioengineered cornstarch and beet sugar in Cheerios make up a tiny fraction of its ingredients.”

“General Mills’s decision will require ‘a significant investment,’ according to a company spokesman, even though the bioengineered cornstarch and beet sugar in Cheerios make up a tiny fraction of its ingredients.

“The increased costs are a function of the difficulty of finding non-bioengineered sources of corn and sugar, and of maintaining a paper trail to document those sources.

“Some consumers may opt for ‘GMO-free’ products if the price is right. Still, it’s an open question how many will pay the inflated prices necessary to remove the far less expensive bioengineered ingredients.”

Mr. Conko and Dr. Miller impressively identify the flaws within the companies’ marketing approach because it doesn’t seem to benefit consumers.  Rather it “has chosen a course guaranteed to raise its costs with little if any benefit, embolden anti-technology activists, and put itself in potential legal jeopardy.”  What makes General Mills’ marketing technique so faulty is that it resulted from an external influence of a small group of consumers who chose to completely disregard scientific facts but rather deem GMOs unsafe based off of deficient education.