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General Mills removes genetically modified ingredients from Cheerios

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Responding to consumer demand, Golden Valley-based food maker General Mills is manufacturing its original Cheerios cereal without genetically modified organisms (GMOs), USA Today reports.

The change in ingredients only applies to the original Cheerios cereal and not any of the brand's flavors, such as Apple Cinnamon Cheerios or Multi Grain Cheerios.

A Cheerios spokesman says the company was able to go the non-GMO route because the main ingredients in the cereal are oats, and the oats were never genetically modified. The primary switch comes with non-GMO pure cane sugar instead of beet sugar, the spokesman says.

The Star Tribune says original Cheerios will now carry the label, "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients," even though the label is not an official certification.

USA Today says some consumers have had health and environmental concerns over the inclusion of GMOs in the cereal, even though there is little scientific evidence to suggest genetically modified ingredients are less safe.

Still, the publication says, anti-GMO activists are considering the switch a major victory.

Todd Larsen, corporate responsibility director of the economy activist group Green America, told USA Today the move was "a big deal."

"We don't know of any other example of such a major brand of packaged food, eaten by so many Americans, going from being GMO to non-GMO," Larsen said.

General Mills says the company has been manufacturing non-GMO Cheerios for several weeks and consumers will see the product on store shelves soon.

The company has also posted a page on the Cheerios website that addresses consumers' GMO concerns.

In March, Whole Foods Market became the first national grocery chain in the U.S. to announce it was doing away with GMOs in its products. The change will take time, however.

"Since GMOs are so prevalent in the major food crops in our country — they're a majority of U.S. corn, soy, canola, cottonseed and sugar beets crops — this process will be challenging," the company said.

Whole Foods promises to rid all its products of GMOs by 2018.

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