General Mills has decided to remove all GMOs from the original Cheerios recipe, prompting a debate over whether the US reached a turning point in the fight over genetically engineered ingredients.
Last week, General Mills announced it would stop using genetically modified corn starch and sugar cane in its original Cheerios cereal, though the company continues to believe that genetically modified organisms (GMO) in general are safe to eat. Other cereal brands, along with those under the Cheerios label, such as Honey Nut Cheerios, will still incorporate GMOs for the time being.
The decision marks an about-face for General Mills, which has spent millions of dollars opposing GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington. It’s now the largest American company to reject GMOs in one of its brands, which could eventually mean serious consequences for biotech companies like Monsanto and Dupont if other businesses follow suit. In 2013, Ben & Jerry’s stated it would remove GMOs from its products, while Chipotle has announced its intention to gradually eliminate genetically modified ingredients from its restaurant menu during 2014.
According to USA Today, approximately 80 percent of food products in the United States contain some type of GMO, while the Los Angeles Times noted that 93 percent of all soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered. The same is true for 90 percent of corn.
Although opinion is split on the impact of GMOs on health, a November study indicated that these modified ingredients could be related to a growing number of gluten-related disorders, including intestinal problems, which afflict roughly 18 million Americans. Supporters believe GMOs are essential to building crops that will resist disease, but opponents are wary that engineering seeds in a lab could lead to negative consequences.