Original Cheerios are now GMO-free, General Mills announced this week, but other popular varieties of the cereal, such as Honey Nut Cheerios, still contain genetically modified ingredients.
The Minneapolis-based company said Thursday that over the last year, it has replaced some ingredients that were genetically modified.
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A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is one whose genetic composition has been altered to obtain “desirable” traits such as improved flavor and the ability to withstand insect attack or drought. It’s unclear exactly what health hazards are associated with consuming these so-called “frankenfoods,” but critics say they are linked to leaky gut, food allergies, and endocrine disruption, among other problems. Consumer advocate groups have put pressure on food companies to remove GMOs from products.
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According to General Mills, original Cheerios are now being produced with non-GMO corn starch, which is used in the cooking process, and non-GMO sugar cane, which is used as a sweetener.
“The main ingredient in original Cheerios is whole grain oats — and there are no GMO oats,” General Mills said. The changes required “significant investment” but were relatively simple when compared to replacing GMO ingredients in other Cheerios varieties, such as Apple Cinnamon and Honey Nut.
“It’s the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible … For our other cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible,” the company said.
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More than half of American crops contain GMOs and roughly 70 percent of processed foods harbor at least one genetically modified ingredient, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization. GMOs are found in such foods and drinks as corn chips, canola oil, soy milk, and baking powder.