Last year the cereals Grape Nuts and Cheerios went GMO free. GMO stands for genetically modified organism. This is genetically engineered food given certain desirable traits. Defenders say these increase healthfulness as well as yield, while detractors say the traits they design for are desirable to manufacturers and their bottom lines, but may compromise the food’s health benefits, and the health of the environment. There has been a big movement against GMOs. In fact, the state of Vermont is being sued by food giant Monsanto for a state law that says all GMO foods must be labeled. So back to cereal, once they came back GMO free a mysterious thing happened. The vitamins vanished. According to NPR, “vitamins A, D, B-12 and B-2 (also known as riboflavin)” were gone from Grape Nuts. Cheerios was now missing riboflavin. Professor of crop science at the University of Georgia Wayne Parrott is a staunch defender of GMOs. He was the first to notice that these vitamins were missing in the new version of Post’s and General Mill’s famous cereal brands. Parrot said, “The new version [of Cheerios] is certainly less nutritious.”
So where did the vitamin’s go? Requests from Post got a response claiming, “They did not meet non-GMO standards,” and not much else. DSM and BASF are the world’s topmost vitamin manufacturers. They didn’t exactly clear up the issue. A spokesman for DSM told NPR via email, “There is very little non-proprietary information I could talk to you about.” It turns out the vitamins themselves may not fit the non-GMO category. Genetically modified microbes make riboflavin and vitamin B-12 today for some companies, according to scientific papers published on the subject. Strains of bacteria also produce vitamins naturally. But these may have been fed on glucose derived from sources which were genetically modified. Then there are vitamins that need to be mixed with cornstarch. There is no way to tell whether the cornstarch is GMO or not. Lastly, those in the know say vitamins need tight scrutiny before they can be labeled non-GMO. They can be sourced from China. But this increases time and takes more work. Vitamin extraction from normal foods is possible, but costly. The only other way to ensure non-GMO sources is to imbue the cereal with synthetically made vitamins created in a lab. So much for getting back to nature.