General Mills’ announcement last week to remove GMOs from its original Cheerios last week was welcomed by consumers nationwide and signifies an important win for those seeking more sustainable and transparent food options. This victory shows that collective consumer pressure can make a difference when it comes to a major food company’s practices, even when that company is one that has spent nearly $2 million to fight GMO labeling efforts.
Shortly after General Mills’ announcement, headlines and social media were alight with the news of this consumer victory thanks to major media coverage and thousands of shares on Facebook (Thanks GMO Insiders!). By spreading this news, we are able to educate millions more about what GMOs are and why there is cause for concern.
Thanks to increasing consumer awareness and demand, we predict 2014 to yield even more pledges from companies pledging to go non-GMO, including commitments from:
- Another major cereal company
- A major dairy brand to use non-GMO feed for its cows
- Another national food chain to add more non-GMO options
- Another national food retailer to require GMO labeling (like Whole Foods)
We also see:
- Increased interest in organic foods from consumers and businesses alike
- Increased conversion of farmland from GMO farming to non-GMO or organic methods
In spite of the progress that will be made on the non-GMO front in 2014, there will also be new challenges for consumers seeking non-GMO choices and important reasons to pay attention and take action.
In 2014, biotech giants like Monsanto and BASF may gain FDA approval for additional GMO crops including wheat, potatoes, and apples, which are now in testing phases.
Dow has sought approval for selling the herbicide 2,4-D—the same chemical that was used to make Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used during the Vietnam War. New versions of GMOs for 2,4-D resistant crops are also being developed to withstand liberal application of this herbicide, which would result in even more chemical application on farmland.
The first ever genetically modified animal, AquAdvantage salmon, could gain market-approval and not require a label.
Important Consumer Alert:
It’s not just food that consumers need to be concerned about if trying to avoid GMOs – genetically modified crops are also used for animal feed, fuel (corn ethanol), fiber (cotton), and even trees. While humans do not directly ingest these GM crops, it’s still imperative that more long-term studies be completed to assess the impacts of these crops before they are widely introduced on the market.
Additionally, it’s important to look for the labels: Non-GMO project Verified and/or USDA certified organic. Companies can claim all sorts of things on their packaging to increase sales, but only 3rd party verification ensures companies are following through on their commitments.
Background on GMOS:
Since genetically modified seeds were introduced to the US market in 1996, roughly 75-80% of packaged foods have come to include genetically modified ingredients, largely unknown to most consumers. Unlike 64 other countries, the US does not require companies to label GMO ingredients. GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption, and there is a growing body of studies that show that greater research and long-term studies are needed to fully assess their potential risks, for human health, animal health, and the environment. Unlike the EU, the US does not use the precautionary principle — requiring manufacturers to prove their products safe before selling them — when introducing new GMO crops. As a result, many of the crops approved by the FDA are done so based on industry studies, not long-term, independent ones. There are currently nine common genetically modified crops in the US including corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, papaya, and summer squash.
Action in 2014:
Getting Cheerios to remove GMOs is just the first step. We need you to keep spreading the word and taking action with us to eliminate GMOs from the food supply.
And tell us what your hopes and predictions are for 2014 are below!