Ask-General-Mills
Mar 18, 2016 • By

We need a national solution for GMO labeling

I have been eagerly awaiting a resolution of the GMO labeling debate in Washington and am disappointed that a national solution has still not been reached.

As the discussions continue in Washington, one thing is very clear: Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines.

We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that.

The result: consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.

With the Vermont labeling legislation upon us, and with the distinct possibility that other states will enact different labeling requirements, what we need is simple: We need a national solution.

So why has it been so hard to reach a consensus on this topic?

All sides of this debate, 20 years of research, and every major health and safety agency in the world agree that GMOs are not a health or safety concern.

At the same time, we know that some consumers are interested in knowing which products contain GMO ingredients.

So while the discussions continue in Washington to find a national solution, we have added a simple search tool on our website, found at Ask.GeneralMills.com, to provide GMO ingredient information for hundreds of our U.S. products, along with reference information.

Ask-General-Mills-GMOs-2

And for consumers who prefer products without GMO ingredients, we have terrific organic and non-GMO brands like Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and LÄRABAR.

General Mills is now the 3rd largest producer of natural and organic foods in the country and we are proud to be a major contributor to increasing the amount of organic acreage being planted.

We will continue advocating for a national solution to GMO communications to consumers, but on behalf of all the passionate food makers here at General Mills, we look forward to moving beyond this divisive topic and getting back to creating great food that people love.

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  • Jim

    Thanks for the insight Jeff. I personally prefer non- GMO foods for myself and my family. I, and others like me, may help you with respect to your future decisions regarding this issue by only purchasing your organic offerings.
    As they say, “Money talks”.

    • http://www.QuadGrips.com/ James Watson

      Agreed!

    • http://sharethetruthfoundation.org Matt W

      I agree. If a seed that grows the food that General Mills sells is made from the same company that created all the poisons, I want to know so I don’t feed that to my family!! I have the right to know what I’m eating!

    • Katie

      I am with you on that!

  • David

    Sad to see General Mills give into anti-GMO and Want to Know hysteria. This is exactly what organic and anti-GMO organizations want so they can point to the so-called and falsely claimed “unhealthy” and “dangerous” ingredients in your products leading to them continuing their fear mongering in an attempt to ban GMOs. Why don’t you simply pull out of Vermont and refuse to give in to the misinformed? Then let them decide if they want you back or not by getting rid of their idiotic and ideology based labeling standards.

    • waynedaniel

      Don’t you want to know if what you are eating is edible or not? And will you please let us know, if you can, just how this relates to “ideology”?

      • Tilghman Lesher

        The problem is that the label contributes nothing as to whether food is edible or not. A better label would be to indicate what pesticides were used. It certainly would surprise a lot of organic-food-eating folks, to learn that organic foods are not free from pesticides.

    • Steve Yakoban

      That’s true. The effort to change some text on their labels will probably bankrupt them. Maybe the cigarette companies don’t need warnings on their packages either and then a pack of cigs will cost 40 cents again right?

    • Steve Yakoban

      Pull-out! Hahahaha! They love money that’s why. They can care less about making a stance.

      “then let them decide if they want you back..”. Yeah Vermont could never exist w/o cheerios.

      • LaBerta Finck

        I buy NON GMO, organic oat cereal that looks like cheerios and tastes just as good as as Cheerios. It isn’t sugar coated either which is bad for us.

    • enlighten ment

      The problem is not that the food is genetically modified, the real issue is that customers deserve a certain amount of transparency, especially if they are going to feed it to their children. Everyone is different, therefore, there is no telling how the GMO ingredient in a product will affect persons. It’s like this: if you are allergic to a certain type of nuts, you would want to know if the product you are about to eat has any form of nuts in it. This is the same with GMO’s, if you are allergic to seafood and you buy tomato that have the genetic traits of jelly fish, you will not know unless it was somehow stated on the label. However, if it is not stated on the label, you will buy the tomato and then get sick from eating it, not knowing how or why you are sick because you just ate a healthy tomato salad, or so you thought. Products with GMO ingredients need to have proper labeling and information.

  • Jim Gerritsen

    Mr. Harmening, please be aware that 300 scientists and legal experts have signed a statement expressing there is NO consensus on the food safety of GMO food.

    • G Foundas

      There very much is a consensus. Literally all credible, peer reviewed, published literature, regardless of funding, on the GMOs supports their safety. It could be 3,000 scientists, or 30,000 for that matter, if they have no published literature supporting their position, it is meaningless.

      • SageThinker

        There is NOT a consensus. The “consensus” myth is a meme propagated by the agrochemical industry disinformation machine. Industry-aligned “science” is actually non-science. Monsanto’s own data shows that glyphosate, for instance, causes pancreatic and thyroid tumors in a one-year study of 180 rats (Stout and Ruecker, 1990). There is no such “consensus” except perhaps among industry-aligned review articles published in industry-captured “scientific” journals. There is a lot of scientific evidence that indicates likelihood of harm from both glyphosate (Roundup) which is on Roundup Ready crops, and from Bt toxin, which is in Bt toxin GMO corn.

      • Steve Yakoban

        Absolutely a lie. Where’s the list credible peer reviewed literature?

        • Cheryl M.

          Whether you believe it’s a lie or not, let everyone decide for themselves – label foods that contain GMOs! (I personally don’t believe GMOs have ever been proven safe, so I don’t want to be the guinea pig). Thank you, Kevin, for being proactive and labeling your products. However, I would suggest you correct your verbiage above – all sides of the argument are NOT in agreement. Many of us prefer to accept the peer-reviewed science that does show long-term ill effects from GMOs. Folks, look at the studies, the industry funded studies are for 60-90 days, not nearly long enough for these tumors to show up!

          • Katie

            I agree with you, Cheryl. I do not buy food unless it’s stated “NON-GMO”. This is my right to know.

  • mem_somerville

    Interesting. The cost of labeling for Vermont is “significant”. So only the big players can afford to compete. Too bad for smaller businesses.

    I’m curious about the wording of your label–I didn’t see that anywhere. Do you have an example?

    • http://blog.generalmills.com Kevin Hunt

      Hello, thanks for reading our blog. Our labels will comply with the Vermont law and include the required language of either: “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

      • mem_somerville

        Thanks for the detail.

      • Strawberry Letter 23

        OR, I hope, “Produced with NO GMOS!”

  • Jennifer Berman Diaz

    Wonderful news, thank you Mr. Harmening for doing the right thing. However, zero testing has been done re: GMO safety — only the biotech corporations who stand to profit from the sale of the seeds and pesticides have said they’re safe. As such there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. But, what about Canada? Canadian consumers have the right to know what they’re buying too.

    • http://blog.generalmills.com Kevin Hunt

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for reading Jeff’s post and sharing your thoughts. As Jeff stated, every major health and safety agency in the world agrees that GMOs are not a health or safety concern. See what the FDA, Health Canada and others have to say about GMOs here: https://www.generalmills.com/News/Issues/on-biotechnology

      As for Canada, there has always been different packaging there. This decision only applies to the U.S., because we have to follow the Vermont law.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

      • Jennifer Berman Diaz

        Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for your reply. Fortunately people are learning the truth that the FDA and Health Canada are corrupt and governed by Monsanto and the other Big Ag corporations who do not put the health of people over profits. And based on your note, obviously General Mills is only concerned with its profits as well, which is why many of us will continue to boycott ALL of your brands, until the GMOs are removed.

        However, as an American living in Canada, for those who are not educated on the subject, I would like to see General Mills commit to labeling GMOs in Canada as well. And you can be sure that you will be hearing from many Canadians who agree with me. 64 countries label GMOs, and ALL NORTH AMERICAN consumers have the Right to Know what’s in the food they are buying. Our children are not science experiments! BTW, #BernieSanders is the only presidential candidate who agrees!

        • http://blog.generalmills.com Kevin Hunt

          Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. And I will share the links you gave us with Jeff (Links in comments do not appear in our comment moderation field).

          Kevin Hunt
          General Mills

        • G Foundas

          Jennifer, if you were educated on the subject, you would be familiar with the tremendous body of scientific evidence that overwhelmingly and unequivocally contradicts your position on the subject of GMOs. You would know that that evidence is not in any way the “exclusive” domain of any one company, industry, or even nation, but rather, of the global academic and scientific community as a whole.

          To imply that that this evidence, which is as strong or stronger than that for global anthropogenic climate change, is somehow the product of some kind of corporate conspiracy seems exceedingly irrational when you consider the fact that the much larger, and much more sinister energy industry has failed to twist the science on climate change in their favor. The biotech industry is demonstrably orders of magnitude smaller than “Big Oil,” and yet, you expect us to believe that biotech has done what they couldn’t? I, for one, do not see that as a rational position, and I don’t think that anybody who is in fact educated on the subject could ever adhere to that position.

          If you want to avoid a specific breeding method for arbitrary reasons, that’s your right, and you have a way to do that – by choosing “Organic” labels. Creating a fear of something that has been proven time and again to not only be safe but also largely indistinguishable from similar products (through over 2,000 studies) by labeling it is nobody’s obligation.

          It is unfortunate that so many have dug not only their heals in the sand, but also their heads. Those of us who are actually familiar with science in general, and the science specific to this subject will gladly buy foods that are the result of advanced breeding technologies, and even seek them out.

        • Katie

          Jennifer, well said! Thank you so much for pointing out the truth!

          • See Huber

            Thank you, Jennifer. They can repeat it over and over, they can shout it, they can belittle . . . but it does not change reality.

      • LaBerta Finck

        It seems that the ‘almighty dollar’ is still taking precedence over peoples lives. NO the entire world does not agree that GMO’s aren’t a health concern. Why do you think so many countries are labeling their products AND banning Roundup and other products like it?

        I guess it is your paycheck that is affecting your brain.

  • http://www.QuadGrips.com/ James Watson

    I would not say all sides or research agree but welcome the decision and hope you guys stick with this. I think it will pay off.

  • locutus_of_klingons

    instead of labeling, create a non-gmo version. more people like me might then consider your products.

    • waynedaniel

      I totally agree!

  • Kimberly

    So happy GM has decided to list gmo ingredients. Frankly I stopped buying anything from GM because I won’t fed my kid genetically modified foods and now I’ll be able to buy from them again now that’ll I’ll know which products are free from gmo’s.

  • http://www.GoForTheHealth.com/ Debbie Kane

    Thank you and everyone at General Mills for making the decision for transparency in GMO labeling on a NATIONAL level! There are multitudes of people like me who disagree with the safety of GMO’s in our food… and are privy to opposing evidence that GMOs ARE INDEED “a health or safety concern”. Unfortunately in this day and age, money can keep this evidence hidden from the general population. But I’m not here to get all political, lol! I am truly THANKFUL for your decision that will help me with my food purchasing choices. I do subscribe to your organic products and love them! Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!

  • Jennifer Berman Diaz

    Peer-reviewed by pro-GMO scientists and authored by Monsanto scientists; funded by agencies like the USDA who promote GMOs and are governed by biotech cos; independent nonprofits that support GMOs, invest in GMO research and regularly collaborate with biotech companies.

    “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” — FDA, “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties”(GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992)

    “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food…. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job” —Phil Angell, Dir of Corp Communications, Monsanto, quoted in NY Times Magazine, Oct1998

  • buybuydandavis

    Hey, Jeff.

    “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that.

    The result: consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.”

    The US doesn’t need a solution, General Mills does. And you need it to scale beyond one state.

    How about boxes for Vermont gets special labels, and cost extra, instead of spreading the cost of their prissyness across the entire US?

  • Bonnie

    Thank you for labeling your GMO foods. I will again feel comfortable in buying your products.

  • Thom

    I’m old enough to remember when the tobacco industry said the same thing.

  • herbnrenewal1

    Thank you, General Mills, for your decision to begin labeling your food more thoroughly and appropriately. “Leaders go first,” which is one of many reasons why your company has been around for so long. I commend your business acumen.

  • waynedaniel

    Makes me angry to learn that I have been eating GMOs every time I open a box of Cheerios.

  • waynedaniel

    Interesting! What’s the consensus?

    • Tilghman Lesher

      The consensus is that genetically engineered crops pose no more danger than conventionally bred crops. Note that this is not zero risk. For example, gluten in genetically engineered crops is just as dangerous to celiacs as gluten in conventionally bred crops.

  • SirDancelot

    The biggest myth is that the science is settled in favor of GE. I can’t post links here but please search for “gmo myths truths” (without the quotes), open the first hit, and scroll down to find the web version so you don’t have to download the pdf.

  • G Foundas

    It is disgusting to see a baseless food trend for the wealthy and scientifically ignorant moving forward. There is competition in the marketplace, General Mills, and my money will be going to those who embrace progress, not those who aim to stifle it. Those who stand against the technologies that aim to feed the world have the blood of those starving starving to death on their hands, and today you join their ranks.

    • Matt

      Are you really that ignorant? Supporting GMO’s only supports Monsanto, the company with the least care for life on our planet. It’s shameful to support an organization as corrupt as Monsanto.

  • brian

    Vivian, you’re scared – I get that. There are millions like you who have heard about the rat study and would rather not take the risk of eating food produced from GMOs. But the French study in question was flawed.

    As the AAAS says

    There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility, tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Indeed, a recent review of a dozen well-designed long-term animal feeding studies comparing GM and non-GM potatoes, soy, rice,
    corn and triticale found that the GM and their non-GM counterparts are nutritionally equivalent

    But, of course, the damage has been done. The pictures of lumpy rats are out there (the unfortunate rats in question tend to get tumours as they get old whether or not they eat GMO).

    At the end of the day it’s your money. If you you wish to spend more on organic or ‘GMO free’ then the producers of these foods will be very happy to sell them to you and the millions of others scared by anti-GMO propaganda. Good luck to you.

  • Teresa G

    Thank you General Mills. You are doing the smart thing. This is about profit.
    We must keep fighting for honest labeling and healthy food. General Mills, Kelloggs, Kraft and even Schmuckers are not run by mothers with the benevolent goodness that their advertisers want us to believe. These corporations are seeing that the tide is rising. Fortunately, consumers have more and more healthy choices.
    We should all be concerned about the increased rates of cancer, digestive related diseases, asthma and autism. We are plagued by diseases that were rare a couple decades ago. (coincidentally before GMOs and the agro-chemical industry boom).
    It is interesting that YOUR scientific evidence has not convinced many other prominent countries where your products and chemicals are now banned.
    As a long time beekeeper, I see the results of chemicals not only in our food but all around us. We loose 2/3 to 100% of our backyard hives every year. If the chemicals don’t kill them outright, their immune systems are so weakened that they are killed by parasites and diseases that were unknown prior to chemical proliferation stimulated by production of GMO crops.
    Just as we can no longer trust food on the grocery shelf, we can no longer go to big box stores for our spring annuals to beautify our yards. They are loaded with pesticides which kill our bees and birds. We purchase heirloom seeds and grow our own. We use organic lawn products.
    So long as we can keep the chemical industry from buying this country lock, stock congress, FDA and EDA, it is our right to know what is in the food we purchase. I vote with my food dollars.
    I am in Ohio. At election I WILL vote for Senator Sherrod Brown who consistently voted against the Monsanto Dark Act and does not support the TPP. I will NOT vote for Senator Portman who would not issue a statement on the Monsanto Dark Act when I called, although he voted for it. Please check how your senators vote. This issue is not going away. The TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership, is looming.

  • Miles Stockdale

    Thanks for the info and explanation. I assume that once the all the major companies have agreed to label and the activists shift to a mob campaign for the removal of GMOs from the food supply you will also be among the first to comply with the anti-science mob? Or have you already started?

    “Following the launch of the European GM labeling requirement, Greenpeace announced that it would summon thousands of volunteers across Europe, whom it referred to as “gene detectives,” to police grocery stores to ensure they were not stocking foods with GM labels.8 As described in one report, Greenpeace local groups “send letters to the supermarket directors and the food processing companies, [and] organize rallies in front of supermarkets, using large poster[s] claiming that these supermarkets are ‘contaminated with GM foods.’”9 When a new Swedish beer became the first European food put on the market with the new “genetically modified” label required by the EU rules, “Greenpeace responded by shadowing the beer’s first delivery trucks through the streets of Copenhagen and pressuring store owners into barring the beer from their shelves.”10 According to the Greenpeace protest leader, “We stayed up all night printing materials to hand out at the stores and arranging chase cars, but it was worth it.”11 This type of protest action creates a first-mover disadvantage in which any food supplier or retailer that attempted to break the implicit ban on GM foods would be instantly targeted for intense opposition and controversy, deterring any such sales.12 The GM label has been transformed into a scarlet letter that enables these antichoice tactics and campaigns.

    One Greenpeace leader boasted about the group’s concerted campaign to prevent European consumers from having a choice of buying GM products:

    The market is practically free of products containing GMOs. This is a great success for consumers. Their rejection of GMOs in food has made major food producers and retailers ensure that their shelves are free of modified products.”

    — “Thwarting Consumer Choice” by Marchant, Cardineau and Redick

  • J. Fox

    You know what I’d like to see? Companies refusing to be bullied by ridiculous laws like this. I’d laugh heartily if General Mills turned around and said “Welp, looks like we just won’t sell our products in VT anymore”.

    I mean, come on, it’s VT, the entire state has a lower population than most mid-large-size cities, it couldn’t possibly make much of a dent in profits to just stop selling there altogether.

    Then let the people in VT wonder why the selection of available products in their grocery stores has started to dwindle, and let them take their concerns to their state government.

  • Volksbefreier

    I will doubtless begin buying General Mills’ Organic selections if General Mills Corporation begins clearly and unambiguously labeling their products which contain GMO ingredients as containing GMO ingredients.

  • Steve Yakoban

    Truth is General Mills only cares about money. They use GMO’s and crappy ingredients because it saves them a pittance money, but a pittance they don’t want to give up. If they cared about customers they wouldn’t be caught up in the fray over GMO’s because they would have quality ingredients. They also know that once the products say GMO a tiny percentage of people will defect and buy non-GMO competitive products. So they’ve put up a fight over that little group of people, espousing the GMA’s lies. For all the money spent supporting the GMA, they could have invested in non GMO (slightly) better quality ingredient sources. Instead, they’ve lost money on both ends GMA politics and future lost customers. So GF, you’ve gotten exactly what you deserve!

  • chestnuthill

    Consumer should assume that any product not labeled “GMO free” contains GMOs. There, problem solved. I don’t like requiring the “organic” label to also mean “GMO free”. Two completely different beasts. Requiring GMO labeling implies there is something dangerous or unhealthy about the product compared to GMO-free. That would be misleading to the consumer.

    • relO627

      Recent University of Vermont study concluded that putting those labels on did not imply a warning to consumers.

  • Whaler31

    General Mills should realize what they are saying to the consumer: “At GM, we’re really pissed that Vermont has us over a barrel on GMO labeling, and we’d really love to keep putting GMO’s in our products without you knowing”

    They don’t even realize thy are sitting on a free multi-million dollar ad campaign to win over the majority of consumers who do not want to eat GMO’s, yet they are not even taking advantage of it. Note to General Mills-be the first big food company to label ALL of your products that contain GMO’s, and then make a goal to STOP using GMO’s altogether.

    This is the real problem with today’s American corporate-government oligarchies-the consumer is not treated like an individual, but something to just be subversively marketed to like cattle.

  • john mcmurdy

    Could you share an example (image) of what the label may look like? Those who demand transparency also often demand a “skull & crossbones” to scare folks into paying more for essentially identical products, so the specifics matter…

    • http://blog.generalmills.com Ashley Halladay

      Hi John,

      Thanks for reaching out. Our labels will comply with the Vermont law and include the required language of either: “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

      Ashley Halladay
      General Mills

  • Katie

    Dear Jeff, I would love it if General Mills starts labeling their products. I only feed my child non-gmo and organic foods. I don’t buy anything unless it’s stated “NON-GMO”. This is the reason why I don’t buy most of your products. I am just not sure if your products contain GMO ingredients.

  • See Huber

    I do not agree, “every major health and safety agency in the world agree that GMOs are not a health or safety concern.” However I do thank you for your decision to label.

  • LaBerta Finck

    I don’t know why they keep claiming that GMO foods are not UNhealthy. Many scientific studies have proved just the opposite. I think these are getting swept under the rug as they don’t want us to know the truth.

    Now, having to go to a website and check a list of what the company makes to see what is and isn’t GMO is downright stupid as not everyone has the means to do this. It is simply so much easier to put NON GMO on a label making it easier for everyone who cares about what they eat and what they feed their families.

  • LaBerta Finck

    YEAH, well said.

  • Tara Chambers

    I have to laugh at this statement! “All sides of this debate, 20 years of research, and every major health and safety agency in the world agree that GMOs are not a health or safety concern.”

    Clearly General Mills thinks we are stupid and in the dark! NOT all of us are! Many of us ARE aware and know that GMO’s have been proven OVER and OVER again to be HORRIBLE for our health, the environment and for all the animals who are forced to eat GMO grain before being slaughtered. (trust me — that is the short version as I could go on about all the damage GMO has done to India over the years!)

    Anyway — I simply stay away from General Mills because I refuse to buy processed food so……….there ya have it! NO matter what they say or do — I choose to protect myself from GM, GMO and other companies!

  • Charles Wright

    Jim, most people watch How It’s Made for cereal and most companies DO NOT use GMO ingredients.

  • Schratboy

    ….are Not a health and safety concern? BS! There is not a single peer-reviewed study proving GMOs have no affect on gut flora and are Not immune system stimulating as a novel protein/allergen. The GMO gamble was foist upon the US population and provided food processing companies with cheap raw materials at the expense of consumer awareness and health. No bueno.

  • enlighten ment

    It’s a shame that a company cannot stand based on moral decency alone, instead it stands on corporate greed. One state can make a difference, because Vermont represents the start of something to be proud of, “a stand on moral decency.”

  • Brenda Medina

    To OP: If what you stated above is true, just answer this: why does the rest of the world including Europe, wants nothing to do with GMOs?

  • KevinW

    In other words, what the company is planning to do is pass the cost of the Vermont law on to everyone, not just Vermont consumers and hoping the cost won’t be so much that it will turn too many people off. As Sen. Inhofe has said, corporations are always appeasers.

  • Joe Levelhead

    I’m glad to see one company talking about this and willing to provide labeling. Is there a reason why you cannot make labels that conform to the VT requirements, and use those same labels nationwide? I see Del Monte canned vegetables state ‘GMO free’ on their labels, so I assume it can be done.