MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills has taken steps to rid Cheerios of buzzworthy bioengineered ingredients.
Oats, the main ingredient in the brand’s original cereal, are naturally non-bioengineered, the company said. But now, changes in sourcing and handling of ingredients, such as separating cane sugar from beet sugar and using corn starch made with non-bioengineered corn, enables the company to label the product as free of bioengineered ingredients.
However, for other Cheerios varieties, widespread use of bioengineered crops would make removal of such ingredients “difficult, if not impossible,” the company said.
“The simple and unique nature of our product made it possible to label original Cheerios as not being made with genetically modified ingredients,” General Mills said. “We made investments in new systems at our production facilities to separate the ingredients we use to make original Cheerios from our other products. For example, we store only non-G.M.O. corn starch where we store our corn starch, and only cane sugar where we store our sugar. And though there may always be some chance of some small amount of G.M. coming from some other source, none of the ingredients in original Cheerios are genetically modified.”
The announcement follows a G.M.O. Inside campaign from national non-profit group Green America pushing the company to remove the controversial components from the top-selling cereal. Since November 2012, the group said 40,000 posts from consumers have flooded General Mills’ Facebook page, and more than 25,000 people e-mailed or called the company.
“Removing G.M.O.s from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting G.M.O.s out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills,” said Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for non-profit organization Green America. “Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-G.M.O. and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-G.M.O. products and companies need to meet that demand.”
General Mills said while it opposes state-by-state labeling laws, it supports a national standard for labeling non-bioengineered products. The company also sells organic cereals made without bioengineered ingredients under its Cascadian Farm brand.