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Are GMO-Free Cheerios the First Domino?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Activists are trumpeting General Mills' decision to remove GMOs from Cheerios as a watershed moment. It is; but not for the reason that they believe.

The move was relatively easy and inexpensive. Cheerios are primarily oats, and there are no GMO oats. The comparatively small amounts of sugar and cornstarch in the mix required nothing more than a switch from beet sugar to non-GMO sources. At the same time, Cheerios popularity among parents transitioning their children to solid food leaves the product more vulnerable to activist attacks, and in turn justifies a modest investment that might provide a slight marketing boost and a modicum of brand protection.

Add the ubiquitous use of GMOs today (they are found in as much as 80 percent of the processed foods we eat) - and the degree of difficulty in removing them from just about every other product on the shelves - and it's hard to see Cheerios as a domino or test case. But it isn't the proverbial tree falling in a forest either. When we shift the focus from General Mills motivations to the timing of its decision, we see why every food manufacturer ought to be taking notice, whether another brand-name kitchen table staple goes non-GMO or not.

With activists applying pressure, GMO-labeling initiatives on state ballots, and regulators mulling changes to federal labeling rules that will govern food and beverage marketing for years to come, there is no more important time to for the industry to present a united front. As such, a number of industry insiders are scratching their heads as to why General Mills broke ranks at this critical moment - even if it only extended a pinky toe over the line.  

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