NEW YORK — General Mills said Friday it will start labeling products across the country that contain genetically modified ingredients to comply with a law that is set to go into effect in Vermont.
The maker of Cheerios cereal, Progresso soups and Yoplait yogurt notes it is impractical to label its products for just one state, so the disclosures required by Vermont starting in July will be on its products throughout the U.S.
A spokesman for General Mills, Mike Siemienas, said the labeling will appear over the next several weeks. In the meantime, the Minneapolis-based company said people could search its website at ask.generalmills.com to see which products have GMOs. Examples of General Mills products that include genetically engineered ingredients include varieties of Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Franken Berry cereal, Hamburger Helper, Kix, Nature Valley bars and Pillsbury pancake batter.
The move by General Mills Inc. comes as federal legislation on the labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has stalled in Congress. The food industry has called for voluntary labeling of GMOs, and sought to prohibit states from enacting a patchwork of laws around the country.
In January, Campbell Soup Co. broke rank with the industry and said it supported federal legislation for mandatory labeling. General Mills did not say it supported mandatory labeling.
Campbell also said in January it would independently disclose the presence of GMOs is its products if a federal labeling standard wasn't established in a "reasonable amount of time." But the disclosure may be easy to miss, unless people are looking for it.
An image provided by Campbell to illustrate compliance with the Vermont law showed a Spaghetti-Os can with the words "Partially produced with genetic engineering" in tiny print at the bottom of the back of the can.
Genetically modified seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country's corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. Corn and soybeans also are made into popular processed food ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.
The Food and Drug Administration has said the genetically modified ingredients on the market now are safe. But advocates for labeling say the issue needs additional study. Among supporters of labeling are many organic companies; products cannot contain GMOs to qualify as organic.