You may have heard last week that General Mills announced that Cheerios will no longer contain GMO ingredients. With so much pro- and anti-GMO frenzy, it can be hard to tell what some of this stuff really means, so let me break it down.
Previously, Cheerios were made with corn starch and beet sugar. These two ingredients frequently come from sources that are genetically modified. This sort of thing is common in most prepared and convenience foods because corn, soy, and sugar beets, which are largely genetically modified, are used to make a multitude of food additives. To remove GMOs from Cheerios, General Mills has switched to cane sugar and is now sourcing non-GMO corn starch. It's important to note that all other types of Cheerios in the line are not included in this change and will continue to contain GMOs.
Does This Have A Nutritional Impact?
I've seen some coverage of this story that says this change doesn't really matter at all because it doesn't impact the nutritional value of the product. Yes, it's true, this won't change things like calories, grams of sugar, or any other nutritional measure, but that's hardly the point. People who think numbers are the bottom line when it comes to nutrition are missing a big piece of the puzzle. The make-up of our food extends far beyond calories, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins an minerals. There is still so much we don't understand about all of the other components of food and their synergy in regards to the way they are presented in nature. Also, many incorrectly think that the GMO issue is solely about the safety of human consumption. While that is a concern, I think everyone can agree that if you eat a GMO you aren't going to drop dead immediately. If that was the case, we wouldn't be here. The GMO debate is equally, if not more, about the impact they have on environments and ecosystems which we need to survive.
Isn't This Just A Marketing Ploy?
I've also read some criticism of General Mills saying that this is all a marketing ploy. Pro-GMO groups also throw in something about being anti-science to appease crazy, uneducated customers and anti-GMO groups add in a line about how terrible General Mills is because they don't genuinely care about this cause and they are only doing this to make money. My response to this is, what's the problem? The basic premise of our economic system is that products and services are improved by meeting the needs and wants of customers. If a company wants to make money, they listen to what the customer is asking for. Yes, General Mills is doing this to make their customers happy (which in turn makes them money) and I don't see anything wrong with that. Marketing isn't a bad word, it's just a tool to create awareness about a product or idea. I think this development is great because it shows how the internet has re-connected companies with their consumers by giving them a more visible platform to express their thoughts and concerns.
A lot of people eat Cheerios, so this could have a widespread impact. Also, this may encourage other brands to do the same. Changes that come about like this without legislation are a win in my book because it means we don't have to suffer the unintended consequences that can come with new laws. Despite all of these positives, I also challenge you to consider the idea of breakfast cereal in general. Even the organic varieties and still a processed food that most of us probably can't make at home. Plus, it's something many people eat every single day. Why not opt for whole food options like plain yogurt with fruit, oatmeal, homemade granola, or eggs? I don't buy cereal and I'm doing perfectly fine. :)
What do you think about General Mills taking GMOs out of Cheerios? Do you think we should be skipping out on processed cereals all together? Share in the comments below!