Monsanto called out “GMO-free Cheerios” for what they are—a marketing stunt

Looks are (almost) everything.
Looks are (almost) everything.
Image: Reuters/Jim Young
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Last week, General Mills hit the headlines after saying it would remove genetically modified ingredients from its beloved cereal product, Cheerios. Today,  Monsanto, the world’s biggest maker of genetically modified seeds (and probably GM anything) dismissed the move.

Asked on a conference call this morning whether the company was worried about rising consumer resistance to GM food, CEO Hugh Grant said:

“The interesting thing with Cheerios over that particular brand is they’re made from oats, and there are no biotech oats in existence today. So I think we’ve talked for years about we would support voluntary labeling and that was up to companies to do. I think we saw last week was the first real life example of true voluntary labeling and probably a little bit of marketing as well.”

And he’s probably right. As General Mills itself explained last week, not much has actually changed with Cheerios. There are no genetically modified oats, the main ingredient in the cereal. The only difference is that the small amount of corn starch used in the cereal no longer comes from GM corn. What’s more, that change only applies to the main Cheerios label, not, for example (paywall) Honey Nut Cheerios.

Monsanto has been subject to worldwide protests for years for its involvement in GMO and other alleged nefarious activities.  General Mills is obviously keen to avoid a similar fate. Or to put it in the marketing-speak of Tom Forsythe, General Mills’ vice-president of global communications: ”It’s simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it.”