By Dr. Mercola
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
|Photos by ActivistPost.com
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.
Sugar Doesn't Need to Be Genetically Modified to Be Hazardous to Your Child's Health
Besides the issue of whether the sugar in your favorite processed food is genetically engineered or not, it's important to remember that sugary breakfast cereals are bad news for your child's health no matter what.
Many are utterly fooled by advertisements promising "wholesome goodness," when it's really very little difference between many popular breakfast cereals and a candy bar. The following video illustrates this quite effectively. Honey Nut Cheerios contains the equivalent of four added teaspoons of sugar in each bowl compared to the original Cheerios. Few parents would allow their child to heap four teaspoons of sugar onto their cereal. Yet they fail to understand just how much sugar is hidden in the processed foods they serve their kids each day.
Are You Being Misled by Your Favorite "All-Natural" Brand?
Last year, a report from the Cornucopia Institute titled Cereal Crimes7 exposed how most "natural" brands are actually just charging you more for what often amounts to genetically engineered ingredients. This is in all likelihood part of the reason why so many "natural" brands spent millions of dollars to defeat California's GMO labeling campaign.
According to the report:
"[There is a] vast differences between organic cereal and granola products and so-called natural products, which contain ingredients grown on conventional farms where the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered organisms is widespread... Our analysis reveals that "natural" products — using conventional ingredients — often are priced higher than equivalent organic products. This suggests that some companies are taking advantage of consumer confusion."
This is significant, because surveys have shown that more consumers pay attention to the "100% Natural" claim than the "100% Organic" label. In one such survey, 31 percent of respondents said the "100% Natural" label was the most desirable eco-friendly product claim, compared to just 14 percent who chose "100% Organic." Food companies clearly know this, and they're cashing in on your confusion. The truth is, synthetic ingredients and additives, toxic pesticides, fumigants and solvents frequently show up in products bearing the "natural" label, while these are strictly prohibited in organic production. But the most disturbing finding presented in the Cereal Crimes report related to the presence of genetically engineered ingredients found in so-called all-natural foods:
"The Cornucopia Institute sent samples of breakfast cereal to an accredited and highly reputable GMO testing laboratory. Samples were tested for the exact percentage of genetically engineered corn or soybeans, using the most sophisticated and accurate tests commercially available.
The results were stunning. Several breakfast cereal manufacturers that market their foods as "natural," even some that claim to avoid genetically engineered ingredients and are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, contained high levels of genetically engineered ingredients."
Natural products found to contain 100 percent genetically engineered grains included:
||General Mills Kix®
Remember: "Natural" Label Does NOT Prohibit Genetically Modified Ingredients
The USDA certified organic label is your best guarantee that the food was produced without:
- Toxic pesticides
- Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients
- Carcinogenic fumigants
- Chemical solvents
This peace of mind is something the "100% Natural" label will NOT give you. Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients are of particular concern when it comes to food products like breakfast cereals and granola bars, because, in the US, the vast majority of the most common ingredients in these products — corn, soy, and canola — are genetically modified. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of consumers erroneously believe that the "natural" label implies or suggests the absence of GE ingredients, according to a 2010 Hartman Group poll. If you're one of the 60 percent, please understand that at the current time, the ONLY label that can protect you against GE ingredients is the USDA 100% Organic label.
In Lieu of GMO Labeling, 100% Organic is Your Only Assurance
Once you realize that much of the "natural" claims are hype, it becomes easier to navigate around the deception. To find brands that are committed to sustainable organic agriculture and avoiding genetically engineered ingredients use Cornucopia's Cereal Scorecard8.
Another factor to consider is the fact that many small family farms actually adhere to fully organic practices even though they may not have gone through the expense of obtaining organic certification. So labels aren't everything when it comes to healthful food. But if you're going to shop by the label, make sure it's the certified 100% organic label. Until or unless we get GMO labeling in the US, the 100% USDA Certified Organic label is the only assurance you have that the food you buy does NOT contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.