General Mills defends GMOs

by World Grain Staff
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MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, U.S. — As consumers increasingly shun genetically modified ingredients, General Mills, Inc. has clarified its stance on the subject: GMOs are OK.

The company that removed the controversial ingredients from its original Cheerios brand earlier this year defended biotechnology in its 2014 Global Responsibility Report, issued April 16. Not only are GMOs safe, the report said, but also they may offer a solution to food insecurity worldwide.

“…biotechnology shows promise to address such issues as strengthening crops against drought and extreme temperature, and delivering more nutritious food, even in poor soil conditions,” the report said. “We agree with the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) that the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) offers the potential for increased agricultural productivity or improved nutritional value that can contribute directly to enhancing human health and development.”

Acknowledging consumer concern over bioengineered ingredients, General Mills said it has found a broad global consensus among food and safety regulatory bodies that biotech crops are as safe as their conventional counterparts.

“This technology is not new,” General Mills said in its report. “Biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in food crops for almost 20 years. Because U.S. farmers use GM seed to grow certain crops, 70% of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves likely contain GMO ingredients. As a result, if an American food or beverage product lists corn, soy, canola, cottonseed or beet sugar as an ingredient — and it’s not organic — it likely contains GMOs. Global food safety experts will note there has not been a single incident of harm to health or safety demonstrably linked to the use of GMOs anywhere in the world. Numerous studies have found certain benefits, however.”

The company said it believes biotechnology helps ensure safe and effective food production because genetically modified crops require less insecticide and less energy use by farmers. Genetically modified crops also are associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved water quality, improved water filtration and reduced soil erosion, the report said.

Still, General Mills currently is enrolling products from its Small Planet Foods division of natural and organic brands to be verified by the Non- GMO Project.

“We know that some consumers remain uncomfortable with GMOs,” General Mills said. “As a global food company, we produce products without GM ingredients in some markets — we also offer organic and non- GMO alternatives in most of our major categories in the U.S.”

The company added it opposes state-based labeling of products made with genetically modified ingredients but that it supports national standardized labeling in the United States.

After changing handling and sourcing practices to remove GMOs from Cheerios, the company revealed the effort failed to improve the brand’s performance and that it had no plans to reformulate additional products without GMOs.

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