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Marketing and Comms
Consumers, Activists Declare Victory as General Mills Commits to Non-GMO Cheerios

GMO Inside, a campaign of national non-profit organization Green America, celebrated a victory yesterday after target General Mills announced that its original Cheerios cereal would now be produced without the use of GMOs.

After 40,000 consumers posted to Facebook in support of GMO Inside's campaign calling on General Mills to make Cheerios non-GMO, the CPG giant stated yesterday: "It's the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible — and even that required significant investment over nearly a year," and "we were able to change how we source and handle ingredients to ensure that the corn starch for original Cheerios comes only from non-GMO corn, and our sugar is only non-GMO pure cane sugar."

"Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills," said Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen. "Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-GMO and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand."

In November 2012, GMO Inside starting calling on consumers to put pressure on General Mills to make Cheerios — a top-selling cereal in the U.S. and often one of the first solid foods fed to children — without GMOs, due to concerns over the health and environmental impacts of GMOs. As soon as the campaign launched, tens of thousands of consumers started flooding Cheerios' Facebook page with concerned comments regarding GMOs in Cheerios, and used an app put out by Cheerios to spell out anti-GMO messages in the Cheerios font:

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GMO Cheerios

In October 2013, GMO Inside issued a "real" corporate responsibility report for General Mills and prompted over 25,000 consumers to urge the company to get GMOs out of Cheerios. GMO Inside also posted a video highlighting the GMOs in Cheerios that got over 200,000 views. In the past week, callers to the company were told that Cheerios would have a big announcement about GMOs soon.

However, General Mills insisted that “its decision on ingredients was not driven by safety concerns or pressure from critics,” according to Reuters.

“It's not about safety. Biotech seeds, also known as genetically modified seeds, have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in global food crops for almost 20 years,” the company noted in Thursday's announcement.

But GMO Inside still considers it a victory. John W Roulac, GMO Inside co-founder and co-chair stated: "This is a huge victory for the non-GMO movement. I want to thank all the "GMO Insiders" for using social media to convince America's largest packed food brand to go non-GMO with a major product. History is being made today and more food brands will rush towards non-GMO foods."

GMO Inside is now encouraging consumers to urge General Mills to make all 12 varieties of Cheerios non-GMO; the cereal giant admits that all Cheerios cereals sold in Europe are already GMO-free.

While the battle to mandate GMO labelling continues to rage in various states, U.S. consumers continue to express their distaste for the idea of having them in their food and insist on their right to know either way. In response, Whole Foods — which says it has for years collaborated with many of its supplier partners to source products without GMO ingredients — announced in March that within the next five years, all products sold in Whole Foods stores in the U.S. and Canada will be labeled to indicate if they contain GMOs.