General Mills announced in a blog post on Thursday that they’ve changed the ingredients in Cheerios to ensure they are no longer using genetically modified ingredients.
This is a pure PR move, since none of the DNA or protein from genetically modified ingredients actually makes it into the recipe.
It’s quite clear that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) currently in our food chain aren’t harmful to our health, though there might be other negative environmental impacts of these foods.
Even if the product of a genetically modified organism was dangerous in any way to our health, there’s no way that danger would reach to the end products that actually end up in Cheerios — corn starch and sugar.
Tom Forsythe, the vice president of Global Communications for General Mills, wrote in a blog post:
Original Cheerios has always been made with whole grain oats, and there are no GMO oats. We do use a small amount of corn starch in cooking, and just one gram of sugar per serving for taste. And now that corn starch comes only from non-GM corn, and our sugar is only non-GM pure cane sugar.
What doesn’t fit is that these products would have no trace of their genetically modified roots either way.
Genetically modified organisms have tiny alterations to their DNA, the molecule that makes up their genome. This DNA change results in changes to the plant’s proteins. But neither the plant’s DNA or the proteins it produces make it into corn starch or cane sugar, Cornell food scientist Margaret Smith said in a statement sent to Business Insider:
Corn starch and sugar are highly refined products, so they contain no DNA (which is what is introduced into a genetically engineered organism) and no protein (which is what the new DNA would produce in a genetically engineered organism). Because of that, corn starch and sugar from a genetically engineered corn variety are nutritionally and chemically identical to corn starch or sugar from a non-genetically engineered variety.
This means that the new version of Cheerios that is being made without use of genetically engineered varieties will be nutritionally and chemically identical to the previous version. So it will not offer anything new to consumers — other than to give them the option to buy a product that does not support planting more acres to genetically engineered crop varieties.
In fact, GM doesn’t believe the GMOs are dangerous, and freely admits that they are will likely be important in coming years to meeting growing food demands. Forsythe even notes in the post that “it’s not about safety” but they did it “because we think consumers may embrace it.”
Basically, the product is exactly the same, they know it isn’t dangerous, and the new labelling is pure advertising bull that’s feeding off of customers’ unfounded fears and needlessly reinforcing the unscientific idea that GMOs are dangerous.
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