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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hooray for Non-GMO Cheerios.......Sort Of


“Original Cheerios to Go GMO Free!” screamed the recent headline on my newsfeed. Well, hooray
for Non-GMO Cheerios.......sort of.

Okay, let's start with the basic question; what's a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism and refers to....well.....an organism that has been genetically modified. But in this case we're not talking about some weird science fiction creature dreamed up in a mad scientist's laboratory. No. We're talking about your food supply. Specifically, your processed food supply because nearly all corn and soy crops in the United States are genetically modified.

What kind of modifications are we talking about? Oh, nothing that would be bad for you, heaven forbid. The toothless tigers at the FDA and the USDA would never think of letting anything bad for you slip into the food system. Unless there was enough money and influence involved. Anyway, these modifications are designed to produce bigger, fuller products and more of them. They are designed to be disease and pest resistant. Isn't that all wonderful and beneficial-sounding? We won't talk about the possible effects such engineering may have on the overall quality and nutritional value of the food involved and we won't speak of creating toxic or allergenic compounds within the molecular structure of the food. We wouldn't want to alarm the sheeple, would we?

Never mind that every other country on the planet requires labeling of GMO products or bans them outright. Our forward-thinking, progressive food system is, by and large, run by shills for the industrial food producers they are supposed to be regulating. Think foxes guarding the hen houses. So GMO labeling is not required in the good ol' US of A and since GMO are not even considered food additives, there are no requirements in place to prevent them from being added to just about anything and everything food manufacturers desire. And we the sheeple need not be told. What we don't know won't hurt us. Much.

But, as I said, hooray for Cheerios and its producer General Mills. They are taking a bold step forward and, in response to consumer demand, they are eliminating GMO ingredients from original Cheerios. Read the press releases. The forces of good have overpowered the evil dark side. The consumer has spoken. We are changing our wicked, wicked ways. Now, don't you feel good about us?

Meh. There's one little detail they kind of gloss over. Cheerios are made of oats. And there's no such thing – yet – as genetically modified oats. So they want you to get all excited over the fact that they are not genetically modifying something they weren't genetically modifying to begin with. Rather like the “gluten free” pushers who slap “gluten free” labels on scores of rice and corn and potato products – products that are inherently gluten free – in order to look politically correct and to sell more stuff.

Want to know what's in Cheerios? Hang on: Whole Grain Oats, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Wheat Starch, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) added to preserve freshness. Tripotassium Phosphate is an emulsifier, in case you were dying to know, and “mixed tocopherols” are preservatives used because of their resistance to high temperatures in food processing, their low volatility and good solubility in fats and oils.

But the point is, the only thing in Cheerios that contains any sort of genetically modified material are the relatively small amounts of corn starch and sugar. So they're promising to use non-GMO corn and sugar in original Cheerios. But not in any other variety. See, there are boatloads of GMO ingredients in other Cheerios products. Honey Nut Cheerios, for instance, not only has corn starch and sugar, but brown sugar as well and canola oil, which can also be genetically modified. Multi-Grain Cheerios contain lots of corn – corn, corn starch, and corn bran. And the other varieties are pretty much the same story. By their own admission it would cost General Mills too much money to stop using GMO in all their product lines, so they're only going to respond to consumer demands where it won't hurt them much by trumpeting their corporate responsibility and slapping their “No GMO” label on the product that's least affected in the first place.

But, hey, if nothing else at least it raises awareness of GMO in the industrial food supply and maybe if enough consumers start asking, “What's that doing in there?” and start voting with their dollars at the grocery store, things will change. The last thing food manufacturers want is an educated populace. Sheeple are easier to feed. So why not wake up and be a pain the corporate ass today, hmmm? You never know, you could make a difference.

In the meantime, even though it's nothing more than a self-serving publicity and marketing ploy, it's still a step in the right direction, so hooray for Non-GMO Cheerios......sort of.

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