Cereal giant General Mills to start using GMO labeling nationwide

© Jim Young
Food processor General Mills, maker of famous brands Cheerios, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker, will start labeling genetically modified organisms present in their products after Congress failed to reach a consensus on national GMO label legislation.

Minneapolis-based General Mills made the announcement Friday, under pressure driven by a GMOs labeling law which goes into effect in the state of Vermont on July 1.

“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply won’t do that,” Jeff Harmening, head of General Mills’ US retail operations said in a post on the company’s blog. “The result: Consumers all over the country will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills food products.”

As biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies, General Mills said in the blog post, and widely used by farmers in food crops, “70 percent of foods on US grocery shelves likely contain GMO ingredients.”

The company makes 89 leading brands, among them Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs, Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs.

The demand to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients has been a controversial and contentious topic driven by a large grassroots movement of people wanting to know what is in their food. Food manufacturers have asserted that additional labeling would create extra costs that they would be forced to pass on to consumers.

Earlier this week, the US Senate failed to advance a bill that would have outlawed states from passing laws that required food packages to disclose the presence of GMOs. The defeat was a blow to the food industry which has opposed GMO labeling.

“We defeated the so-called DARK Act on Wednesday when Republicans tried to pre-empt the Vermont labeling law, we won the vote 49-48, far shorter than was expected,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety told RT. The bill needed 60 votes to advance from committee.

“That made everyone realize that they are not going to pre-empt the [Vermont] law, and they started seeing the writing on the wall. It is a matter of now, not when,” said Kimbrell. “It is no coincidence that General Mills has announced they will start labeling, and we can expect more companies to start doing the same.”

Campbell Soup Company recently announced it plans to voluntarily post GMO labels on its products. 

Through an interactive list on General Mill’s website consumers can now find out whether the products they buy contain GMOs, or as the company refers to them, GE, for genetically engineered.

Cheerios for instance “does not contain GE ingredients or is Organic, and therefore does not contain GE ingredients.”

Honey Nut Cheerios, however, has “some ingredients (generally less than 75 percent of the product by weight) are from plants grown using GE seed.”

Corn Chex “is produced with GE ingredients. The majority of the ingredients in the product were grown from plants using GE seed.”

Most corn, soybeans and beet sugar produced in the United States is grown from genetically-modified seeds and is in many processed foods.

Over 70 bills have been introduced in 30 US states to regulate for genetic engineering labeling. Three states, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont, have passed labeling laws and more bills and referendums are expected.

“The US now joins its friends in Europe and 64 other countries who already label for GMOs” said Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety.