Organic foods are required by U.S. federal law to be produced in ways that promote ecological sustainability, without common toxic and genetically engineered ingredients.
But organic products are increasingly being forced to compete with products that are labeled as “natural.” There are no restrictions on the term “natural”, and it often constitutes nothing more than meaningless marketing hype. Most disturbing of all, many foods labeled as “natural” actually contain genetically engineered ingredients, and breakfast cereals are particularly guilty of this.
California’s Proposition 37, which would have required GE foods to be labeled as such and prevented GE foods from being mislabeled as “natural,” was defeated back in November due to massive donations from multinational corporations that hide GE ingredients behind natural labels and “wholesome” advertising.
One such company was General Mills, which donated more than $1.1 million to the No on Prop. 37 campaign to defeat the GE labeling law. I recently told you this betrayal of consumers’ trust will backfire, and General Mills just got a taste of the backlash.
Good Business 101: Do Not Deceive Your Customers
At the beginning of December, General Mills’ Cheerios brand released a Facebook app asking “fans” to “show what Cheerios mean to them.” The app allowed users to create their own placards using Cheerios’ trademarked black font on a yellow background, where dots and periods featured little cheerios. One day later, the app was abruptly pulled after thousands of angry “fans” expressed their disgust over the company’s betrayal. According to Activist Post1:
“You could literally spend all day looking at ‘Recent Posts by Others’ on Cheerios’ Facebook page – they are nearly all complaints about GMOs and declarations of boycotts.”
Cheerios diligently deleted posts as quickly as they could, and most have now been removed, along with the app. But screenshots of some of the creations have been preserved on Cheeseslave2 and the Happy Place3 website.
- Occupy Food
- Science Experiment
- Caution GMOs
As stated in the featured article4:
“General Mills has drawn their line in the sand, spent over a million to deceive paying customers, and is now trying to hide the backlash from other customers who do not yet know the damaging nature of genetic modification. It just goes to show that the fight for truth about GMOs in the face of deception by Monsanto, DuPont, and large food corporations is far from over. And consumers are winning without needing millions for a failed hushmoney campaign.”
Parents are Waking Up to the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods
In a recent press release 5, Alisa Gravitz, CEO and president of Green America, stated:
“The sheer volume of comments on Cheerios’ Facebook page raising concerns around genetically engineered ingredients is incredibly inspiring. It is also amazing to see the creativity that visitors to Cheerios’ Facebook page use to call out Cheerios on using their customers as a science experiment for GMO consumption. Cheerios is a cereal that is frequently fed to children, and many of the comments are from concerned parents who are worried about the fact that they have been feeding a cereal with genetically engineered ingredients to their children.”
One such parent posted a comment on Cheerios Facebook page saying,
“So sorry that the food my kids loved as toddlers is one I can’t support anymore. I can’t believe that General Mills has the well-being of its customers in mind when it contributes to movement against labeling of GMOs.”
She expresses exactly what so many people are now waking up to — the fact that there are an ever growing number of genetically engineered ingredients in our food that we had no idea were there. As far as Cheerios goes, you’d never get the impression there might be anything unnatural about their cereal. According to its website6:
“Cheerios has been a family favorite for years — with good reason! Its wholesome goodness is perfect for toddlers to adults and everyone in between. Made from whole grain oats, Cheerios has no artificial colors or flavors. Those wholesome little O’s have only one gram of sugar. They’re low in fat, have no saturated fat and are naturally cholesterol free. Cheerios are also an excellent source of folic acid and a good source of fiber.
Maybe that’s why parents feel so good about serving Cheerios to their families. It’s a healthy way to start the day, a perfect snack, and tastes great in a recipe. You can trust Cheerios for a lifetime of wholesome goodness for your whole family.”
However, two of the first three ingredients in Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are corn starch and sugar — two ingredients that might be genetically engineered (a majority of corn-based ingredients and sugar from sugar beets on the US market is now GE). The thing is we can’t know since they don’t have to disclose whether they’re using GE ingredients or not on the label. But the fact that General Mills chose to cough up well over a million dollars to avoid GE labeling definitely leads one to believe that, most likely, these (and/or other ingredients) of Cheerios ARE indeed the genetically modified versions. If that’s the case, then there goes the “trust” for “a lifetime of wholesome goodness.”
The fact that General Mills would rather pay millions to hide that their products contain GE ingredients rather than give you the choice to buy something else, or reformulate their product without GE ingredients (which would be the sensible thing to do if they were really concerned about children’s long-term health and well-being) is quite telling. And fortunately, people are now starting to see through these shady tactics where actions do not match their words.