A year ago at this time, Cheerios cereal company owned by General Mills had a serious mess on their hands. A campaign started by GMO Inisde, a part of Green America, created an uproar of consumer backlash at Cheerios' use of genetically modified ingredients. Meanwhile, General Mills had donated over a million dollars to fight GMO labeling.
An unstoppable (and rather humorous) flurry of anti-GMO consumer outcry splashed Cheerios' social media pages for weeks causing them to remove a Facebook application. When Cheerios tried to defuse the bomb, it got worse, no doubt because of their patronizing tone. Little did we know they really "we(')re listening."
Cheerios has announced that after some significant investment and research over the past year, its original flavor will use non-GMO ingredients. Not the other flavors because that would be "difficult, if not impossible."
General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said:
We switched from what we were using to non-GMO corn and non-GMO pure sugar cane.Below are echoes of the differing sentiments and reactions to Cheerios' new move. Some are hailing a victory, while others are unmoved for a few reasons.
GMO Free USA posted the following on their Facebook page, essentially asking for proof and noting the trace contamination:
Secondly, on Cheerios' FAQ page, where they made their announcement, they fully stand by GMOs and hold that they are safe.
There is broad consensus that food containing GMOs is safe, but we decided to move forward with this in response to consumer demand.Thirdly, a lot of food freedom advocates are pointing out the harmful non-GMO ingredients. The sugar. One lesser-known ingredient is trisodium phosphate - a common and strong cleaning agent. Also a stain remover, degreaser and food additive considered by the FDA as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). This article by natural nutritionist Evita Ochel goes into major health deficits of Cheerios. There is also the deceptive marketing of 'whole grains', added synthetic vitamins that our bodies don't recognize, and fillers like wood pulp.
For yet another reason, where I was among the harsh and unforgiving, pointing out last year that according to Ballot Pedia, General Mills donated $1,135,300 for No on Proposition 37 in an effort to keep their products from GMO labeling. General Mills is said to have undercut non-GMO advocates during Initiative 522 in Washington state recently.
General Mills, by the way, does own several organic cereal sub-companies. Hmm...
I deeply want consumers to know and think about the damaging effects that GMOs have on their intestinal health and, ultimately, their immune system - so any attempt to hide that information to manipulate profits is, to me, an abhorrent deception. Jefferey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology quotes a doctor-nutritionist who has seen nothing but recovery with patients after removing GMOs from their diets. I have had those very same conversations with specialists in the healthcare field.
A lot changes in a year's time - avalanches can begin with a snowflake. I'll never stand in the way of other people's efforts to either label GMOs, ban or remove them whether it's geared toward a private company or the government - or if it's done by the company itself. Whether it's considered by many a small victory or a huge overhaul. I used to say "why petition commodity companies?" Or, "I'm still not going to eat that..." But then, why would I also say certain ingredients are poison, should be removed and not given to school children? Or why make a big deal about hurting the pockets of the company, but without making a demand or pointing the way? And how much do we really want to lacerate companies that are trying to change? Yet, it is still desirable and action-inspiring to create those changes in the food system.
Consumer activism is what caused many food companies to desperately claim "Look! No more high-fructose corn syrup!" "No MSG!" "Gluten-free!" and so forth. Can they label? You bet. Can they remove and replace? We are now witnessing this.
Each large company that not only labels but goes beyond to remove genetically modified ingredients sends a strong message to other companies and to farmers. It becomes widely publicized, which causes the consumer to question their food. It might plug and eventually reverse the tide of GMO crops. It could change the direction of subsidies - the price manipulation that is responsible for making organic expensive and processed junk foods cheap. If Cheerios can find non-GMO ingredient sources, then other companies can too.
Most of all I think of how disheartening it must be for people who see the gates closing on their food choices. It can seem insurmountable to food freedom lovers who travel farther down the rabbit hole. Then there are people out of work, people who sincerely struggle to feed their families. The unwitting children in the public school system, patients in hospital beds and the elderly in nursing homes. Homeless people eating at shelters and victimless criminals caught up in the prison system who don't deserve cruel and unusual treatment. And health-conscious people who also store up preparedness foods but find themselves compelled to buy cheaper, processed boxed and canned goods. People on strict diet regimes struggling to reverse disease before it's too late.
At any rate, I hope the tide keep changing...
Cheerios Removes App During Fury of Anti-GMO Backlash
Anti-GMO Consumers Won't Forgive Cheerios - Cheerios Finally Responds
Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.