If you’ve been following General Mills and their relationship with biotechnology, you may be getting whiplash.
Who can forget that in January, the company decided to “reformulate” their original Cheerios so they could slap a GMO-free label on the box. The move was obviously calculated to sell product, because Cheerios, apart from a small amount of corn starch has always been GMO-free (there are no GMO oats available for commercial use).
But then, we found out that GMO-free cereal was actually less healthy than the prior recipe — apparently the company had to cut out some added vitamins from the ingredient list to keep that label.
Here’s the best part about this saga: the GMO-free label did nothing to help sales. Even better, the company decided they would not “reformulate” any other brands of cereal so it too could carry the GMO-free label. In other words, the labels didn’t help sales (which is what this was all about) so General Mills is done with it.
That isn’t the end of the story though. General Mills just released its annual 2014 Global Responsibility Report. In it, the company had a change of heart about biotechnology.
In the report, General Mills had this to say about biotechnology:
SAFE – We know consumers care about the foods they eat – and we care about the foods we provide. As genetically modified (GM) ingredients become more common in the global food supply, particularly in the U.S., we know that some consumers may have questions about this technology. On safety – our No. 1 priority – we find broad and deep global consensus among food and safety regulatory bodies that approved GM ingredients are safe. Those who have approved biotech crops to be as safe and acceptable as their conventional counterparts include: the WHO, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, European Food Safety Authority, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Health Canada. The National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, and the British Royal Society also say there is no health risk associated with GM foods or ingredients.
This technology is not new. Biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in food crops for almost 20 years. Because U.S. farmers use GM seed to grow certain crops, 70 percent of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves likely contain GMO ingredients. As a result, if an American food or beverage product lists corn, soy, canola, cottonseed or beet sugar as an ingredient – and it’s not organic – it likely contains GMOs. Global food safety experts will note there has not been a single incident of harm to health or safety demonstrably linked to the use of GMOs anywhere in the world. Numerous studies have found certain benefits, however.
(Emphasis added.) You can read the full report here.
If I didn’t know any better, I might think that General Mills has been reading my blog in preparation for compiling this report. Of course, we know that there has never been a single scientific study showing detrimental effects to humans or the environment because of biotechnology. None.
The problem is, General Mills knew this before they tried a, quite frankly, pathetic marketing trick with their GMO-free label. But now that it hasn’t panned out, they’re back tracking and supporting biotechnology again.
So, TFD readers, what’s the verdict? Does General Mills get a free pass for their fear-based mistake, or not? Let me know your thoughts in the poll and comments below:
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Let me know what you think! I’ll reveal the answer next week.
Sarah [NurseLovesFar says
I just wanted to address your point: "In it, the company had a change of heart about biotechnology", this isn't new actually. General Mills has always acknowledged the safety of GMOs (http://www.cheerios.com/en/Articles/cheerios-and-gmos#.U1UwEPldV8F) which is why I have always been so confused as to why they went GMO-free with Cheerios anyway. The DNA in GMO corn (starch) and GMO sugar from sugar beets is THE EXACT SAME as non-GMO corn starch and sugar. It's simple science. I also believe that GM said that they made this decision on their own, not because of activism. Regardless, I will never buy another General Mills product until they recant their decision to go GMO free.