Honey Nut Cheerios: Full of Bee.S.?

May 12, 2016

By Anna Varriano

While waiting at the Barrhaven train station with my daughter for her train back to Toronto this past Sunday, a commercial came on the TV that was mounted on the wall in the waiting area. It was a very heart- warming commercial, showing humans saving adorable animals from a variety of life-threatening situations. The commercial, by Honey Nut Cheerios, had a very endearing message: “helping is in our nature”.

cheeriosThe commercial was part of Honey Nut Cheerios’ Bring Back the Bees campaign. During this campaign, Cheerios’ mascot, Buzz the Bee went ‘missing in action’ from Honey Nut Cheerios’ packaging, and consumers could request free bags of wildflowers from General Mills (the cereal manufacturer) which they could plant to ‘bring-back-the-bees’. The campaign goal was to give away 35 million wildflower seeds. By the end of the campaign, 115 million seeds were given away and consumers were encouraged to ‘please keep planting and creating a bee friendly word’.

Sounds great right? Well not to me. To me it sounds like a bunch of honey-nut-coated Bee.S, especially since I just recently read three reports published by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) regarding the impact of genetically modified crops on the environment and our health. Here are a few excerpts from CBAN’s report “Are GM Crops Better For The Environment?” that the Honey Nut Cheerios campaign fails to address:

It is virtually impossible to predict the impact that GM crops and/or organisms can have on biodiversity by studying this issue in a lab. The only experiment that will reveal true impacts of GMOs is open-air release.

For example, herbicide-tolerant crops have encouraged the use of herbicides that reduce overall plant diversity in agricultural systems, and in doing so, can limit habitat and food sources for other important and beneficial organisms such as bee and butterfly species.

Studies show that some agriculture systems support more biodiversity than others. When researchers at Simon Fraser University in BC compared GM herbicide-tolerant canola, conventional canola and organic canola fields in Alberta, for instance, they found that wild bee populations were largest in organic systems and least abundant in GM systems. Furthermore, the pollination deficit (the difference between potential and actual pollination) was greatest in the GM fields, while there was no pollination deficit at all in organic fields. The lower bee abundance in those GM fields studied may be explained, in part, by the fact that fields of herbicide-tolerant crops often have lower weed and other plant diversity, which in turn reduces food sources for a number of species, including important pollinators.

What does this have to do with Honey Nut Cheerios? Lots!!! Let’s start by taking a look at the ingredients:

cheerios ingredients


While oats and oat bran are not from genetically modified crops, the second and third ingredients are: sugar (from sugar beets) and corn starch (from corn). I’m guessing that a heck of a lot of GM sugar and corn starch are used to make Honey Nut Cheerios, given that over 6 million people start their day off by tempting their tummy with a taste of nuts and honey….

See the irony? A cereal that is using GM crops that science shows is having a negative impact on bee populations is now using the slogan “helping is in our nature’. They’re going to make it all better by sending consumers packs of wildflower seeds that may or may not ever get planted. Sounds like a pretty lame band-aid solution to me. Why not remove GMOs from Honey Nut Cheerios to really make a stand and address the cause of the problem?

gmo cheerio petition

Rather than support Honey Nut Cheerios’ Bring Back the Bees campaign, I encourage you to support GMOinside.org’s “Say Cheerio to Honey Nut GMO’s” campaign by signing this petition encouraging General Mills to remove GMOs from the cereal.

How To Find GMO-Free Foods

nongmoverifiedIn the meantime, check out the Non-GMO shopping guide (check out the app too!) for a list of non-GMO cereal and other products, and remember to look for the non-GMO Verified label on food packaging when you’re grocery shopping. The Non-GMO Project verifies products as non-GM. The Project standard requires testing of all ingredients that could be at risk of GM contamination with a maximum contamination level at 0.9%, aiming to reach zero. The Project also requires traceability and segregation practices from farm to table. While these foods are not produced with the use of GMOs, unless they are also certified organic, they can be (and likely will be) produced with the use of synthetic pesticides.

Take control of what you can.




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