Cheerios' Facebook Campaign Fuels Controversy over GMOs

Another social media campaign gone awry: Cheerios' attempt for people to comment on what the cereal means to them turned into a free-for-all about the product. Thousands of posts criticized the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the cereal. The comments likely are the result of recently defeated Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO products.

Cheerios FB

General Mills had been posting the comments, some via an app that displayed them in the Cheerios font. Since then the company has discontinued the app and stopped posting comments for some time. The company also removed anti-GMO photos from the Facebook page.

Todd Larsen, Green America Corporate Responsibility Programs Director, encourages consumers to understand the product and calls on the company to respond:

"At GMO Inside's Facebook page, people can see which ingredients in Cheerios and other products are likely to be genetically modified. Cheerios needs to label or remove the GMO ingredients. Consumers have a right to know."

The company's response has been minimal. Where the app was on the Facebook page is now this note:

"We consider your comments, and we listen to your point of view. Our community is passionate about food and about Cheerios. There are many varied opinions and they are often very strong. We've created this space to enable robust conversations, and we invite you to share your thoughts on things we're doing well and on areas we can improve. We ask only that you remain respectful and considerate of others as you're posting, in keeping with our community guidelines."

Critics say that General Mills should have known better: the opposition was clear, so the social media campaign was too risky, and the result is not surprising.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of GMO products? Do they concern you or not? What research are you relying on to shape your opinion? 
  • How else should General Mills respond to the controversy on its Facebook page or elsewhere?