General Mills will soon be selling some Cheerios made without ingredients containing “genetically modified organisms,” a/k/a “GMOs”. This from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:
“Critics of GMO use in foods called attention to the Cheerios move Thursday, hailing it as a major victory. Advocacy groups have raised concerns about possible health problems from eating foods with GMOs, which are crops like corn grown from seeds genetically engineered for desirable traits like pest resistance. The groups have promoted consumer campaigns in some states to mandate labeling of GMOs in food, and targeted specific brands – including Cheerios – and to change their policies.
Most big food companies have rebuffed such efforts, arguing that there is no evidence of any health problems resulting from GMOs despite decades of use. The food companies also generally have refused voluntarily labeling, saying it is costly and will give consumers a misconception that GMOs are harmful.
‘There is broad consensus that food containing GMOs is safe, but we decided to move forward with this in response to consumer demand,’ said Mike Siemienas, spokesman for General Mills. …
GMO Inside, a campaign that advocates GMO labeling, said Cheerios is the first major brand of packaged food in the U.S. to make the switch from containing GMOs to marketing itself as non-GMO. Some foreign countries have restricted GMO use in food for years.”
I have no objection to General Mills doing whatever it wants with the products it sells. Cheerios is GM’s product; it can make Cheerios however it wants to. My concern is not with General Mills. The main problem isn’t even what happens in the United States. If people in the United States want food made without genetically modified ingredients, it would be a problem. Most of our food presently comes from genetically modified seeds, etc., so there would be a difficult transition period as we stopped using GMOs. But we could do it. Our farmers could grow all the food we need without using GMOs. Our food would be more expensive, but we could afford it. And we would have enough.
The problem with the campaign against GMOs is not in the rich countries; it’s in the not-so-rich countries. There are many countries where people do not have enough food, where drought and pests can cause major dislocations in the food supply from year to year. Drought-resistant and pest-resistant crops can provide more food and more secure food supplies in those countries.
Fifty years ago, the green revolution of Norman Borlaug and others brought relief from hunger and famine to millions of people in poorer countries. GMO foods have the potential to do the same thing today.
Protesting against foods grown from genetically modified seeds and other GMOs makes people in the United States feel good about their social conscience. In less advantaged countries, those protests will, if successful, result in more hunger and more disease made worse by malnutrition.