General Mills has announced it has started producing Cheerios free of genetically modified ingredients, according to the Wall Street Journal. The move makes the cereal one of the highest-profile brands to switch to non-GMO.
The product will be available to consumers shortly. The cereal will carry the label “Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients.”
The change started about a year ago.
“The change—which only affects original Cheerios, not other varieties like Honey Nut Cheerios—has been in the works since about a year ago, when General Mills began working to change manufacturing for Cheerios to eliminate ingredients containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.”
Advocacy groups have hailed the decision as a major victory, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the switch from conventional to non-GMO was rather easy for the breakfast cereal. The main ingredient in Cheerios is oats, a crop that isn’t grown from genetically modified seeds. The other ingredients, mainly cornstarch and sugar, can be derived from genetically modified plants.
Is it really all that different?
Margaret Smith, a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, said the move might please GMO-shy customers, but it doesn’t actually alter the cereal in any way:
“Cornstarch 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.”
Smith continued by saying that the new version of Cheerios will be identical, nutritionally and chemically, to the previous version.