As Karl Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. Two years ago, General Mills had the great marketing inspiration that they would produce a “non-GMO” version of Cheerios. Now this just a sales gimmick, because there has never been a single report of any ill effects from any GM crop in nearly 20 years of use.
And Cheerios was at first glance an easy target, because it didn’t contain any corn, soy or alfalfa nearly all of which is grown using various biotechnology traits. It did however, include sugar, and, oh my(!) most sugar beets grown in the US are Roundup (glyphosate) tolerant and thus have that evil (but meaningless) “GMO” scarlet letter affixed to them. But all General Mills had to do was use cane sugar instead of beet sugar and they were “out of their difficulty.” It also included a small amount of cornstarch, and they had to scare up some non GM cornstarch for no particularly good reason.
And did they realize that sugar is a completely pure compound and it doesn’t matter a bit what kind of plant it comes from? It is still the same sugar (sucrose) molecule. And cornstarch is likewise just a long chain of glucose molecules. Neither contain any DNA.
But wait! Cheerios were vitamin fortified, and a number of common vitamins are manufactured using cooperative biotech-modified strains of E coli. So they had to take those out too! So in order to draw in those fearful but uninformed customers who had bought into the Organic Consumer Association’s ceaseless, but inaccurate fear mongering propaganda, they ended up making a less nutritious cereal.
And did anyone care? No. Cheerios sales were more or less stagnant. So in a great corporate climb-down, General Mills went back to their original formula after the product had sold no better. We’ll call this the first incidence of history as tragedy.
But Gerber repeated this whole act as farce. The Gerber comedy began when Gerber decided that a non-GMO baby formula would be a great marketing stunt to boost sales. As reported by my colleagues Kavin Senapathy and Layla Katiraee, Gerber announced that its Good Start brand of baby formula would henceforth be “non-GMO.” Obviously this is yet another attempt to scare people away from evil competing brands (including the rest of Gerber’s product line, for example.)
But I think my colleagues didn’t really report on the essential comedy of the situation. Because infant formulas are expected to be fortified with vitamins! So Gerber removed perhaps GM sugar and cornstarch, which nobody cared about in Cheerios, but they couldn’t remove the vitamins.
So they made up a new “Non-GMO” category just for themselves, saying that
All of our infant formula products that are labeled non-GMO label meet our internal definition, which is consistent with the definitions of the European Union and the state of Vermont, the only U.S. state with GMO legislation.
In other words they certified them as missing some perfectly healthy ingredients but keeping other perfectly healthy ingredients, so they could continue to sell healthy baby food. And they did all this to create a brand new market category that no one may even care about. They did save themselves some money by not having to pay the Non-GMO Project for their use of their mendacious butterfly logo, because their perfectly healthy baby food wouldn’t pass anyway.
This is pretty good comedy, and a pretty marvelous example of perversions of science to make a buck. Should we hope they succeed or fail? It doesn’t matter. The entertainment was worth it!