Cheerios Maker General Mills Is Calling for a National GMO-Labeling Standard

General Mills Cuts Profit Forecast Amid Weak Demand
The General Mills Inc. logo is surrounded by Cheerios in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. General Mills Inc., the maker of Cheerios cereal and Yoplait yogurt, reduced its earnings forecast for its current fiscal year as weak demand and rising costs squeeze food producers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cereal giant General Mills (GIS) said it would start labelling its products that contained genetically modified organisms (GMO), and cited its frustration at the lack of a national standard on the practice.

The move comes only a few days after the U.S. Senate failed to push forth legislation that would have blocked Vermont from imposing such labelling as of July 1. General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, Wheaties and Trix among many other products, invoked the prospect of the chaos that would come if each state established its own requirements and standards.

“Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Jeff Harmening, executive vice president and chief operating officer for U.S. Retail at General Mills said on its company blog on Friday. “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,” he added.

Consumers wanting to know whether a General Mills product has GMO’s can look that up on a new page on the company’s site:

The contretemps comes as more and more U.S. consumers want more transparency about how their food is made and sourced, with many calling for mandatory GMO-labelling. Harmening in his post acknowledged those desires but claimed that every health and safety agency in the world says GMOs are perfectly safe.

Still, many restaurants and grocers have accommodated those consumers: Whole Foods Market, (WFM), for one, has promised to implement GMO labeling by 2018, while last year, Chipotle Mexican Grill(CMG) announced with great fanfare that it would no longer serve food made with GMOs.

Big Food has lobbied hard to fight mandatory GMO labeling efforts on the state and federal level. This week, Reuters reported that a federal bill that would have nullified mandatory state and local GMO labeling laws failed to garner enough support to move forward. That bill also would have allowed food makers to decide whether to tell consumers about GMO ingredients in their products.


“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,” Harmening said. “We need a national solution,” he added.

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