Dear General Mills:
Well, you caved.
According to this morning’s news reports your original yellow box of wholesome good ‘O’s will now contain no genetically modified ingredients. Some news outlets are reporting just that. Others, I’m sure you’ve noticed, are declaring your decision as a victory. Personally, victory seems to be a rather arrogant assessment of the age-old saying, ‘the customer is always right’. Because that makes perfect sense that the consumer would be right . . . always, about your area of expertise. After all, the average Joe and Jane just may have food manufacturer on their resume in addition to parent, lawyer, teacher, doctor, farmer, etc.
A farmer friend and ag journalist, Holly Spangler wrote a thoughtful piece about this very thing. Take a moment to read it, please.
Your spokesperson, Mike Siemienas said, “We do value our Cheerios fans and we do listen to their thoughts and suggestions.”
Kudos to companies who value their bread and butter. But who exactly are your “fans”?
I don’t know about you but I consider fans kind of like friends. Supportive, understanding, non-judgmental, accepting that one may have knowledge the other does not.
So, Green America, the activist group that launched this non-gmo campaign against you and your “iconic” (Green America’s descriptor, hmmm. Why’d they choose you?) yellow box is actually a Cheerios fan club? Your statement would have been more truthful if it identified the orchestrated social media campaign that pushed you over the edge.
Okay, enough with the sarcasm and dismay. Here’s the thing . . .
I’m a Cheerios consumer. Always have been and always will be. Your cereals are popular in my house and while I’m saddened that you caved to your “fans”, I won’t boycott your product. What I will ask for however is an explanation.
You see, farmers and ranchers have been engaged in this movement to explain modern agriculture and food production for quite some time now. My husband and I farm with his family. We raise corn, soybeans and seed corn. We do plant genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. That is just a piece of my farm story that I share on social media in addition to speaking at meetings, joining town hall type discussions, etc.
While farmers and ranchers seem fully engaged in this effort to communicate and converse with the non-farming public, I’ve discovered that other parts of the food chain aren’t as willing to do so. OR maybe just haven’t joined in.
So, here’s your invitation General Mills. Join us. You are a BIG piece of the food chain. What you chose to do with the ingredients derived from gm or non-gm crops is a BIG part of this conversation.
So, your decision to source non-gm ingredients is a BIG deal to all of us who are in the business of food. Instead of just generalizing that you’ll do what your “fans” ask and that it requires a significant investment, tell us why.
Your decision would make an interesting study of the economics behind a gm to non-gm switch. Did you really take a social media campaign at face value? Did you make this decision because of alleged gmo-safety concerns? What type of research did you do? Have you read the reports stating over and over that ingredients derived from gm-crops are safe? What is your stance on that?
As a farmer I am particularly interested in your former sources of ingredients and now your current sources. What type of reporting procedures are in place to ensure the origin and make-up of your ingredients? How does this affect your suppliers and their affiliates?
As a consumer, I’d like to know about this “significant investment” and if it is one that I’m going to see on the price of the box? Or will it be reflected in the size of the box, the amount in the box, etc.?
In the end, you’ve made your decision for whatever reason and you’ll gain some time in the media. Maybe that’s your end goal. You have a business to run. So do I, and in the big picture, my business is affected by your business. How about we work together on telling a farm/food story that involves inclusion, respect of differences and acknowledgement that it takes all kinds to feed a hungry world?
Farmer, mother, and Cheerios consumer