By Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association
General Mills, the maker of Cheerios and other foods, is catching grief from a small group of Internet bullies because of its use of genetically engineered ingredients. Oddly and ironically enough, these social media loudmouths have chosen a product that is predominantly made from oats, a commodity that is not genetically modified. But of course, Cheerios was not targeted because it may contain GMOs, but because it is the most popular cereal brand General Mills produces and they are trying to bully General Mills into an anti-GM stance. Over on the Facebook page for Wheaties, there’s no GMO mention. Likewise at the Lucky Charms page.
One of the comments over on Facebook about the GMO labeling issue is that “The people have spoken.” The fact is, the people have spoken, but these extreme activists have not listened, nor are they listening now. While there is no doubt that consumers do want transparency and to be informed and farmers and others want to provide it, forcing a few complicated and misleading words on a label isn’t the smartest approach. And that is why, when California recently had a chance to require labeling, it said, “No, thanks.” As fun as it can be for Midwesterners to poke fun at California (and I say this as a California native), they made the right decision in this case.
The preponderance of scientific information is more than clear. Advanced plant breeding using the modern tools of biotechnology is safe and a huge benefit to consumers, farmers, the poor and to the world in general. The United States has the best food safety system in the world and the efforts of narrow-minded Internet bullies should not deter us from continuing our system of labeling and oversight based on the principles of sound science.
It may be a trite or cliché comparison, but the ignorance shown by Internet bullies in the Cheerios campaign of focusing on a grain (oats) that has no genetic engineering seems to me to reinforce the fact that this emperor has yet to realize it has no clothes — and no facts or science, for that matter.