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Study Finds GMOs Hiding In “GMO-Free” Cereals

Study finds hidden GMOs in "GMO-free" cereal!

In the quest to avoid genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), many opt to buy “all-natural” or even certified “GMO-free” breakfast cereals. Sadly, a report recently issued by the Cornucopia Institute studied the contents of these cereals and found utterly shocking results.

Many of the so-called “natural” cereals tested contained up to 100% GMO ingredients!

From the report:

Numerous “natural” products were indeed contaminated with high levels of GE ingredients, sometimes as high as 100%: Kashi® GoLean®, Mother’s® Bumpers®, Nutritious Living® Hi-Lo®, and General Mills Kix®.

For non-organic “natural” products making “non-GMO” claims, results showed that these claims cannot always be trusted. While Peace Cereal® and Annie’s Homegrown® were indeed free of significant levels of GE ingredients, Barbara’s Bakery® Puffins® and Whole Foods’ 365® Corn Flakes, which are both enrolled in the Non-GMO Project contained more than 50% GE corn.


What about certified organic cereals?

Thankfully, organic certification did seem to make a difference:

On the other hand, as a control, The Cornucopia Institute also tested Nature’s Path® certified organic corn flakes, which were free of significant GE contamination (>0.5%). These test results underscore the importance of the organic label, which assures consumers that the manufacturer uses only non-genetically engineered ingredients.


Why does the organic certification seem to help?

The report concludes that part of it may be that organic certification on ingredients is done by a third party, which means that those ingredients are verified organic (which is, by definition, GMO-free). On the other hand, there’s no such verification process for GMO-free ingredients. (The Non-GMO Project only verifies individual food products.) A manufacturer may think that they’re buying GMO-free corn to make corn flakes, but they may be getting duped. That’s because the claim that ingredients are GMO-free is just that — a claim.

I suppose it’s also possible the manufacturer isn’t duped, but is trying to dupe you!

Furthermore, many organic companies go above and beyond by doing their own testing or enacting their own testing protocols.

Why should you care about GMOs in your food?

The safety of GMOs has not been adequately tested here in the U.S. Such safety tests are only done by the companies, like Monsanto, that have huge financial investments riding on the study outcomes. That’s partly because they have not given permission for independent researchers to use their patented seeds and plants in safety trials.

The only human feeding study ever conducted was cut short due to unexpected findings—that GE proteins do not digest in the gut as the biotech industry insisted they would.

Dr. Lisa Weasel, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and professor of biology at Portland State University in Oregon, author of Food Fray: Inside the Controversy over Genetically Modified Food, states: “Safety testing is very limited. Who’s doing the safety test? When Monsanto wanted to introduce rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), it commissioned the University of Vermont to study the impacts. Monsanto did not like the results, so the data was suppressed. In the end activists forced the results to be made public.”


Some safety testing has been done in other countries, though, and the evidence that mounts continues to be damning. Here’s an especially alarming zinger from the report:

Canadian researchers reported in Reproductive Toxicology, published in 2011, that the blood of 93% of pregnant women and 80% of their umbilical cord blood samples contained a pesticide implanted in GE corn by the biotech company Monsanto, though digestion was supposed to remove it from the body (according to Monsanto-funded research). “Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed,” the scientists wrote.

Should you even be eating breakfast cereals, anyway?

The short answer? No.

Regardless of the presence or lack of GMOs, most breakfast cereals contain extruded or highly-processed grains — even the so-called “healthy” ones made from whole grains.

For more on how and why these methods of grain preparation wreak havoc on your long-term health, read this post on How To Eat Grains.

If you still want a cold breakfast cereal, I suggest making your own. My own family enjoys this homemade cold breakfast cereal that doubles as an “instant” oatmeal.

(photo by myu_myu)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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41 Responses to Study Finds GMOs Hiding In “GMO-Free” Cereals
  1. Andrea
    January 29, 2013 | 6:53 pm

    Amazing…. disappointingly amazing!! *sigh*

    We don’t do the cold cereal thang over here but I know many folks who do… and are paying a LOT of money for those little boxes of cereal, which they’re believing are GMO-free.

    Amazing!! :-(


    • KristenM
      January 29, 2013 | 11:25 pm

      Cereal IS ridiculously expensive!

  2. Linda
    January 29, 2013 | 10:05 pm

    Good post. And I’m not surprised. The Baker’s Creek catalog for this year says it is getting harder and harder to find GMO free seed.
    Thank you, Monsanto.

  3. Carolyn
    January 29, 2013 | 11:15 pm

    One good rule is to never buy any product brand which is owned by a major corporation. Kashi is a great example. It may have started out as a small privately owned company with noble intentions, but the mount they sold out to kellogg’s, they became just another money maker with it’s first obligation to maximize profit and screw it’s consumers.
    You must trace the lineage, know who ultimately owns the so called “natural” food that you are buying. I buy homemade granola from an Amish farmer. The grains and nuts used are all germinated and while they don’t bother with organic certification, they have a belief system that keeps them in line better than any regulatory body could.
    And yes, don’t buy processed cereal, period

  4. Patrick Dugan
    January 30, 2013 | 7:57 am
    • KristenM
      January 30, 2013 | 1:57 pm

      Are you asking about whether or not granola may contain GMOs, or whether or not I recommend eating it because of my stance on how to prepare grains?

      If the first, then I would stick to buying certified organic or Non-GMO verified granola. You’ll see the USDA Organic seal and/or the Non-GMO seal on the product packaging.

      Based on the information in this report, I would not trust it if it merely claims to be GMO free in its product description.

      If the second, I would not recommend granola at all! LOL.

      Even though the grain may not be extruded (a real plus for granola), it’s probably NOT been sprouted or fermented/soaked. That means it’s not really traditionally prepared, so it’s harder on our digestion than it needs to be.

  5. Non-GMO Project
    January 30, 2013 | 1:48 pm

    We at the Non-GMO Project are glad to see the interest in knowing exactly what is in our food. We believe strongly in the Right to Know Movement, and this philosophy guides our work. Because of this, we would appreciate the opportunity to address a few potentially confusing information. This blog article is citing a report that came out in 2011. The Non-GMO Project responded to the Cornucopia Report at the time, and you can read that post here:

    To clarify, there were no GMOs found in Non-GMO Project VERIFIED products. The two products discussed in the referenced report were ENROLLED with the Non-GMO Project—this means they have not completed verification. The Nature’s Path cereal the authors note as their non-GMO control is also the only product mentioned that actually is Non-GMO Project VERIFIED.

    Although we can’t speak to which Kashi, 365 and Barbara’s product potentially contain GMOs, we can tell you which products have been VERIFIED Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. At this time eleven of Kashi’s products are VERIFIED by the Non-GMO Project. You can find these products listed on our website at: Kashi released a press release last month stating their future non-GMO and organic intentions:

    Barbara’s has 13 products VERIFIED (the “Puffins” cereal mentioned in the report is not verified or enrolled):

    Whole Foods brand 365 has many VERIFIED Products, but corn flakes (the item the report mentions) to the best of our knowledge are not even on the market, and are not part of the Non-GMO Project:

    There is more information on our website about our process. If a product carries our Non-GMO Project Verified seal, that means that the product has met our Standard for GMO avoidance. Shopping for the seal means you are choosing North America’s only independent verification for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance, including segregation, traceability, and genetic testing of high-risk ingredients.

    We hope this helps set the record straight. Best wishes.

    • KristenM
      January 30, 2013 | 2:20 pm

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing. I’m always grateful to see Non-GMO verified products on store shelves.

    • Kelly
      June 6, 2013 | 7:24 am

      Thanks for clarifying. My 6 year old’s job at the grocery store is to make sure anything we buy has a butterfly on it (she loves butterflies) so we know it’s safe. I was starting to panic a little thinking we couldn’t trust that so it’s good to know we still can! I can think of only a few non-organic foods we buy that claim to use GMO free corn and are not GMO project verified but from now on we will avoid those as well.

  6. Wysteria
    January 30, 2013 | 7:11 pm

    I would be curious if the two that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project are actually verified. I happen to know the verification process is very rigorous and would be very surprised if those products made it through their process and were in fact “Non-GMO Project Verified.” To become verified (per my feed company that is very strict about this — doing in house testing and turning away anything that tests positive either on the farm in storage or through transport) you need to maintain your area with zero cross contamination. And testing is done regularly.

    Please note also that there is no testing required to maintain your certified organic standard. It is a procedural program and testing is not required. Contaminated cereal grains are making it into the feed market regularly.

    Alright, I did a tiny bit of digging. I went to the Non-GMO Projects website and searched the verified products. It should be noted that neither product listed as “enrolled” is VERIFIED. This is a very important distinction and media such as the statement above will go a long way to damage the credibility of the Non-GMO Project. Barbara’s has several products that are verified and if you search by product (type in “corn flakes” for instance) you will also see that they have corn flakes that are “enrolled” which literally means they are “working towards certification.” 365 has a ton of products which are verified, their corn flakes are not one of them.

    Also, another thing to consider is the cross contamination that may be taking place with our whole grains. If they aren’t being tested and you are relying on the certified organic label you may be sorely disappointed if they were to be tested. Cross contamination can happen just by sitting near corn (for example) that is GMO as the protein is transferred in the dust. Certified organic has had contamination documentation since 2003 (if memory serves).

    • Wysteria
      January 30, 2013 | 7:15 pm

      Hmm…The Non-GMO Projects response didn’t show when I posted mine. Sorry!

  7. Sharon
    January 31, 2013 | 2:23 pm

    Another reason why I do not eat PROCESSED foods! Keep it simple & eat healthy grains & make your own granola.

  8. HannahB
    January 31, 2013 | 7:00 pm

    This brings up another question that I hope you can answer. I often buy corn tortilla chips that have the GMO Project label and say “made with organic corn.” They do not, however, have the USDA organic label, so does this mean that this is also merely a “claim” that the corn is organic and therefore GMO free? And if so, does this mean that when you buy a product that says “made with organic …” but there is no USDA organic label that there is no guarantee that those ingredients claiming to be organic actually are?

    • KristenM
      January 31, 2013 | 11:07 pm

      To be certified organic, a food product must have 95% organic ingredients. If it does not, then it can’t bear the USDA certified organic seal.

      It is likely the ingredient is, to the best of the food maker’s knowledge, certified organic corn. But, it is also likely that if the OTHER ingredients are non-organic and amount to more than 5% of the finished food, then the food won’t be certified organic.

      Does that make sense?

      The good news is that if it has the Non-GMO seal, that means it is verified GMO-free. The only thing to be wary of is products that CLAIM to be GMO-free, but AREN’T verified by the Non-GMO project. They may indeed be GMO-free, but they may not be.

  9. Tami
    February 1, 2013 | 3:11 pm

    Good to know! I’ve been buying so called non GMO chips for my daughter but did not realize they could be labeled GMO-free but still contain GMO products. Can we sue for false advertisement? We could take the money and give it to farmers/companies who actually care. I’m disgusted.

  10. Heather - Mommypotamus
    February 1, 2013 | 4:56 pm

    This really bums me out. I buy several 365 products that claim to be GMO-free, but do not have the verified Non-GMO Project label . . . now I don’t trust them! Thanks for writing this post, Kristen!

  11. Alan
    February 3, 2013 | 4:30 am

    I think the best advise in the article is to “just don’t eat grains”. Grass/ grains are not human food and fooling people into eating them has been one of the biggest frauds played on us. GMO or not, grains cause enormous inflammation throughout the body.
    Keep up the good work.

  12. HannahB
    February 5, 2013 | 6:04 pm

    I’m a little confused by your response because in the post, one of the sources that you cited says that even some companies that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project contained more than 50% GE corn. So is the seal reliable or not?

    I have another question, which does not really relate to this topic at all, but I couldn’t find any posts on this and I thought it might be a good post to do …on the subject of milk and meat:

    If I my only options are to buy organic milk and meat from the
    supermarket (Ingles, Publix, etc.) or a small farm/local creamery
    without the organic certification, please tell me which would be better? I
    know that if I buy from Publix and the meat/milk has the USDA organic
    label, I at least know that these cows have been raised without
    hormones/antibiotics and have also been fed a GMO free diet. On the
    flip side, I can buy from the small local farm/creamery that claims to
    raise only grass fed cows with no hormones or antibiotics used, and
    also sells milk that is non-homogenized and only pasteurized at the
    lowest temperature allowed by law, (and let me add that the milk can
    be bottled and purchased in the same day). Which should I go for? The
    USDA label or the local farmer’s word?

    Thanks, and sorry so long! I really appreciate your opinion and advice and I read all your posts!

    • KristenM
      February 5, 2013 | 6:12 pm

      I believe the seal is reliable because only products that are VERIFIED by the Non-GMO Project can bear the seal.

      A product can be ENROLLED in the Non-GMO Project, but not be VERIFIED yet (as is the case with the examples cited in the article above). The verification process is stringent, and many products may not ever wind up being verified.

      As for how to prioritize milk & meat purchases, I’ve written about that here:

  13. HannahB
    February 6, 2013 | 8:14 am

    Aaaaahh! Thank you, Kristen, that clears it up for me!

  14. Sean M
    July 19, 2013 | 11:18 am

    So you’re making your own cereal. But what are you putting ON that cereal?

  15. Health & Organic Wellbeing (H.O.W )
    September 14, 2013 | 10:39 am

    Thank you for sharing!

  16. Christina Rochette
    October 25, 2013 | 10:27 am

    You do realize the study shows that companies “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project contained GMOs, not that any Non-GMO Project “Verified” products contained GMOs? Enrollment does not mean verification has occurred, nor does it mean that the product holds the Non-GMO Project Verified label.

    I’m seeing all of this inaccurate hype about the GMOs in Non-GMO Project foods and wondering if it was meant to confuse the public and render us feeling incapable of avoiding GMOs and the inability of labeling to work.

    • Kristen
      October 25, 2013 | 12:51 pm

      Yes. This was addressed both in the post itself (which only uses the word “enrolled”) and further clarified in the comments.

  17. Food Renegade via Facebook
    February 12, 2014 | 1:00 pm
  18. Wild Lantana via Facebook
    February 12, 2014 | 8:19 pm

    These days, expecting a GMO-free food chain that ends at the grocery store is kinda like wanting the truth about what is happening in the world, and what it really all means, but your source is watching the news on TV: you’re gonna get one degree or another of lies, agendas, and spin. If we want the good stuff – we’ve gotta get it at the source ourselves somehow…

  19. Vikki Kay via Facebook
    February 13, 2014 | 2:36 pm

    Fruit and seeds.

  20. Denise Nothdurft Garretson via Facebook
    May 22, 2014 | 7:24 pm

    don’t eat cereal or grains…GMO free…

  21. Shipley Marmion via Facebook
    May 22, 2014 | 7:26 pm

    Nature’s Path Organic Foods is on the good list! That’s what we buy.

  22. Veronica Joseph Zondlewski via Facebook
    May 22, 2014 | 7:54 pm

    I eat Arrowhead Mills Spelt Cereal

  23. Laura Rao via Facebook
    May 22, 2014 | 8:09 pm

    We said bye bye to breakfast out of a box.

  24. Lindsay Haczynski via Facebook
    May 23, 2014 | 6:10 am

    Cereal is my weakness! Greg Haczynski

  25. Monica Antongiorgi via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:02 pm

    Same for organic cereals or no?

  26. Louise M Dutton via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:12 pm

    You’re surprised?

  27. Healthnut Jenn via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:22 pm

    Cereal should not be eaten anyway , it’s a smoke screen of highly processed garbage with synthetic vitamins added and disguised as something nutritious in a pretty box.

  28. Margaret Howell via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:27 pm

    I’m really disappointed that you are re-posting this misleading article. You definitely should update it to point out the Non GMO Project’s response to you. The products listed in the article are not verified by them, so there are no claims that they are GMO free. It’s a good thing I even read the comments because I would have stopped trusting the company based on this article. Which was written over a year ago… Plenty of time to correct the misinformation.

  29. Mike Underwood via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:42 pm

    We all know the label “natural” means jack and shit.

  30. Katherine Wilson-Thompson via Facebook
    September 6, 2014 | 7:58 pm

    Don’t easy commercial cereals.

  31. Mary Light via Facebook
    September 7, 2014 | 12:57 am

    what is natural about cereal?

  32. The Herbal Face Food via Facebook
    September 8, 2014 | 12:01 am

    No soy for us!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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