GENERAL Mills recently released its 2014 global responsibility report in which it affirmed its view that biotechnology will be key to feeding a growing population.
In January, General Mills announced that it would stop sourcing genetically modified (GM) corn starch and sugarcane for its original Cheerios brand breakfast cereal. The latest report, however, reinforces the company's support for GM crops and their necessity in global agriculture production.
According to the report, one in eight people in the world today — or 870 million people — do not have enough to eat. By 2040, the world's population is projected to increase to nearly 9 billion people.
"Global experts project that, to meet the growing needs of an increasingly hungry world, we will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water," the report notes.
"It's a daunting challenge, but biotechnology shows promise to address such issues as strengthening crops against drought and extreme temperature and delivering more nutritious food, even in poor soil conditions," the report explains. "We agree with the U.N. World Health Organization that the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) offers the potential for increased agricultural productivity or improved nutritional value that can contribute directly to enhancing human health and development."
General Mills said it understands that consumers are concerned about the safety of GM ingredients but reassured its customers that the company's number-one priority is safety. General Mills added that it has seen "broad and deep global consensus among food and safety regulatory bodies that approved GM ingredients are safe."
"This technology is not new," the report notes. "Biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in food crops for almost 20 years. Because U.S. farmers use GM seed to grow certain crops, 70% of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves likely contain (biotech) ingredients."
The report points out that global food safety experts have noted that there has not been a single incident of harm to health or safety demonstrably linked to the use of GMOs anywhere in the world and that numerous studies have found certain benefits.
"Ensuring safe and effective food production while conserving precious natural resources is a long-standing commitment for General Mills. We believe biotechnology can help," the company said.
The report explains that GM crops generally need less insecticide and may reduce the amount of herbicide needed. Additionally, GM crops often require less energy use by farmers.
"They are associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved water quality, improved nitrogen retention, improved water filtration and erosion reduction in soil," the report says.
For those still concerned about the safety of GMOs, General Mills said it does offer alternatives containing no GMOs in most of its major food categories in the U.S.