General Mills Inc. said it has stopped using genetically modified organisms in its flagship Cheerios breakfast cereal amid growing oppostion to the use of such ingredients.
The Minneapolis-based company said in a blog post Thursday night that it has already begun using non-GM cornstarch and non-GM sugar in Cheerios. It said its oats, the primary ingredient, is a crop that is not grown from genetically modified seeds.
The change only affects original Cheerios, not other varieties like Honey Nut Cheerios, according to General Mills.
Many activists and critics have cited studies showing that crops containing genetically modified organisms are not safe for people and animals who consume them. They also claim GMO crops create environmental problems by encouraging more use of certain agro chemicals, and consumers should have the right to know what they are buying.
However, General Mills, which also makes Betty Crocker dessert mixes and Yoplait yogurt, said its decision was not driven by safety concerns or pressure from critics.
"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," Tom Forsythe, vice president of Global Communications for General Mills, said in the blog post. "And it was never about pressure. In fact, this change is not much of a change at all."
The company hopes that "consumers may embrace" its decision to move away from GM ingredients.
In November, a Washington state ballot measure that would have required labeling of foods containing GM crops did not win wide approval.