In response to public pressure via social media, Cheerios cereal manufacturer General Mills Thursday confirmed that it now makes the cereal without any genetically modified ingredients.
Petitioners to the cereal manufacturer cited "health and environmental impacts" of genetically modified corn and sugar beets used to produce the corn starch and sugar in the original version of the cereal, arguing that GMOs are increasing pesticide and herbicide use worldwide.
GMO Inside, a key contributor to the effort to make Cheerios a non-GMO food, said the movement began in November 2012, when it instigated a campaign to push GM ingredients out of Cheerios. According to the group, "tens of thousands of consumers" used an app on Cheerios' Facebook page to "spell out anti-GMO messages in the Cheerios font."
According to a press statement later that year, the group said that its campaign pushed visitors to the Cheerios Facebook page to "post comments such as 'Caution GMOs,' 'Cheerigmos,' and 'We are not lab rats.'"
But the petitioning group said the campaign is more about having the right to know what is in food.
"Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills," commented Todd Larsen, corporate responsibility director for Green America, the overarching group managing GMO Inside and the Cheerios non-GMO campaign.
"This victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand," Larsen said.
Green America earlier this year released a report titled "Deception at General Mills: the Real Corporate Responsibility Report For General Mills," which suggested that the company "concealed its use of GMOs in the U.S. and Canada."
Green America also said the company's contributions to the 2012 "No on 37" campaign in California – which was opposed to a ballot measure to label all foods containing GMOs – signified General Mills' failure to be transparent.
The campaign also questioned General Mills' ability to make non-GM Cheerios available in Europe, but not in the U.S.
Following the General Mills announcement, which came in the form of a GMO question and answer page on the company's website, John Roulac, GMO Inside co-founder, called it a "huge victory for the non-GMO movement."
"I want to thank all the GMO Insiders for using social media to convince America's largest packed food brand to go non-GMO with a major product. History is being made today and more food brands will rush towards non-GMO foods," he said.
On the same frequently asked questions page, General Mills says that "there is broad consensus among major global scientific and regulatory bodies that approved genetically modified foods are safe" and noted that while the company opposes state-by-state GM labeling laws, "General Mills believes a national standard for labeling non-GM products would benefit American consumers."
General Mills also clarifies that the announcement applies only to original Cheerios, and the formula for Cheerios will continue to stay the same.