Genetically modified foods

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Sustainable Future with Lisa Emery

Do you really know what you are eating? Take the story about Cheerios that came out just this past week. General Mills stated that it will stop using genetically modified ingredients to make its original Cheerios. Did you even know that there were genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Cheerios? 

Genetically modified foods are foods that are produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using methods of genetic engineering. Most genetic modification of foods has focused on high demand crops such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil.

In some cases, the genetically modified plant product is directly consumed as food, but in most cases, crops that have been genetically modified are sold as commodities, which are further processed into food ingredients.

While the oats used to make Cheerios have never contained genetically modified organisms General Mills recently made changes to its sourcing — and now only uses non-GMO pure cane sugar instead of beet sugar. However, General Mills has no plans to phase out GMOs from its other cereals in the U.S, even though most Cheerios varieties sold in Europe are made without GMOs.

Other ingredients in Cheerios include modified corn starch, sugar, vitamin E, brown sugar syrup, canola, and natural almond flavor, are at high risk for containing GMOs. Many of General Mills’ other cereals and brands also contain GMOs.

Av Singh, an organic and small-scale farming specialist in Nova Scotia, noted that corn is pretty much in everything processed. About 80 per cent of the corn grown in Nova Scotia today is genetically modified (GM). In fact, it’s hard for farmers to find non-GM seed.

Many of the products in Canada's food chain contain some form of a genetically modified organism and because there are no mandatory labelling requirements, it’s difficult for consumers to know which ones do.

Ottawa has approved dozens of GM crops, but most are not actually grown or sold in Canada, except for corn, canola, soybeans and the sugar beets used to produce white sugar. Products that contain any of these items, including most processed and packaged foods, likely contain genetically modified ingredients.


Lisa Emery, B.A., E.C. invites comments to her columns. You can contact her at


Organizations: General Mills

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada, US Europe Ottawa

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