In case you missed it earlier in the week, General Mills announced that its leading brand, Cheerios, would make the move to GMO-free ingredients. They decided on the change, they said, because that’s what their fans wanted.
The only problem is, original Cheerios — the only cereal in the Cheerios franchise that’s changing — is made primarily from oats, which are already GMO-free. In other words, there are no GMO varieties of oats, so there aren’t any GMO oats grown.
To be fair to General Mills, they are changing the source of their sugar, which can be genetically modified. Currently, General Mills uses sugar from sugar beets and corn, which can be genetically modified, but not always. Instead, they’re planning to use cane sugar, which is not currently genetically modified.
But even that doesn’t really mean much. According to Cornell University professor Margaret Smith, those changes won’t alter the cereal’s make up at all. Smith explains further in a Cornell University press release:
“Corn starch and sugar are highly refined products, so they contain no DNA (which is what is introduced into a genetically engineered organism) and no protein (which is what the new DNA would produce in a genetically engineered organism). Because of that, corn starch and sugar from a genetically engineered corn variety are nutritionally and chemically identical to corn starch or sugar from a non-genetically engineered variety.
“This means that the new version of Cheerios that is being made without use of genetically engineered varieties will be nutritionally and chemically identical to the previous version.”
The better questions is, is that really going to be a ‘significant investment’ as General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas says? My money is on no, especially when they aren’t changing any of the other varieties, like Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
Either way, it leaves an interesting question to ponder: Did General Mills really feel the need to switch from GMO ingredients to non-GMO ingredients, or are they looking for a little bit of free publicity at little to no cost to them? My money is on the latter.
For more information — and opinions — check out these articles and blogs. They bring up good questions.