General Mills announced last Friday that it would be indicating the presence of genetically modified ingredients in its products on the packaging of all General Mills brands containing GMOs.
This announcement comes on the heels of the Senate's decision to vote down the DARK Act that would have made state GMO labeling laws impossible. With Vermont's GMO labeling law slated to take effect in July, General Mills has decided to make the necessary changes for selling its products in this state on its nationwide packaging.
Jeff Harmening, executive vice president and chief operating officer for U.S. retail at General Mills, addressed the issue in the General Mills blog on Friday. In an article entitled, "We need a national solution for GMO labeling," Harmening wrote that the decision to label all of its products was made because labeling products separately for Vermont was cost-prohibitive. "We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply will not do that," he wrote.
"By any measure, today’s development is a watershed moment in the fight for more transparency," said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group in response to the announcement. "I applaud General Mills."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is currently continuing legal action to stop Vermont's law from going forward, said of the labeling law, "One small state’s law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country."
The decision to label GMOs in General Mills brands has not modified the company's stance on GMO labeling, which, according to the General Mills site, is to oppose state-based labeling but to "support nationally standardized labeling of non-GMO products in the U.S., where there has generally been no requirement for special labeling."
"Our position on GMO labeling hasn't wavered at all," Harmening said. "We are still fully aligned with the Grocery Manufacturers Association."
And while General Mills is unapologetic about the use of GMO ingredients in some of its products, it seems that the decision to label them may change some classic General Mills brands. In an article published on the Cheerios brand site, the company addressed the presence of GMOs in classic Cheerios.
"Cheerios’ principal ingredient has always been whole grain oats," the site reads. "And there are no GMO oats.” However, the site also revealed that source of the one gram of sugar per serving has changed; the sugar used in Cheerios is now 100 percent non-GMO pure cane sugar.
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The newly-labeled products will be available over the next several weeks. General Mills also launched a tool on its website that allows customers to search for General Mills products containing GMOs.
General Mills joins Campbell’s in the endeavor to voluntarily label products containing GMOs. Campbell's announced its decision to label GMOs in its products in January.
"More than 60,000 consumers thanked Campbell's when they announced their commitment to greater transparency, and I am sure consumers will reward General Mills for trusting consumers to make their own choices," Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It and Stonyfield Farms, said in response to General Mills' announcement.
Both General Mills and Campbell’s have said that the choice to label GMOs will not change the prices of their products.
General Mills is the third largest producer of natural and organic foods in the country. In recent years, the company has made several changes to its product line, including removing all artificial colors and flavors from its products. General Mills also recently announced that it would be doubling the organic acres from which it sources its ingredients by 2019.
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Cheerios image via Shutterstock