Kashi's GMO Controversy Rages On

Consumer backlash mounts after GMO ingredients discovered in the company's 'natural' cereals.

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GMOs in Kashi breakfast cereal have consumers up in arms. (Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Nichol Nelson has worked in national digital and print publications in both New York and Los Angeles.

Turns out, when you sell your cereal as a wholesome, natural alternative to mass-produced junk and then fill your boxes with genetically modified ingredients, people get angry.

Kashi, a food manufacturer that's built its brand on an identity of being healthy and earthy is being called out by Green It All's Fabrizio Pilato over an October 2011 report that contends Kashi GoLean contains high levels of GMO ingredients. UT San Diego wrote about the issue yesterday, but couldn’t get the company (owned by Kellogg’s) to comment.

So what’s really in the box? The Cornucopia report contends the brand’s “natural” claims are false. 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... Several Bear Naked® and Kashi® products contain hexane-extracted soy protein. The “hexane bath” that the soybeans are immersed in consists of more than 50% n-hexane, which is a known neurotoxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not surprisingly, consumers are angry. The problem basically comes down to a marketing faux-pas, since the cereals have never claimed to be organic. But because Kashi advertises itself as a natural, earthy brand—and encourages that perception—many people were unaware that GMOs are legally acceptable in their products.

The company has joined the Non-GMO project and had seven products verified as Non-GMO: 7 Whole Grain Flakes, 7 Whole Grain Pilaf, 7 Whole Grain Puffs, Autumn Wheat, Cinnamon Harvest, Island Vanilla and Strawberry Fields. Kashi GoLean isn't on the list.

In a statement released today by Cornucopia, Cornucopia claims that Kashi is misleading consumers:

For a period of time on Wednesday, April 25, Kashi’s consumer call-in line provided only a recorded message, indicating they were “temporarily” not accepting calls.  When the company again began accepting calls, a Kashi consumer affairs employee, Rick Duran, told a Cornucopia staff member that "no actual testing" of their cereal products had been performed.  This mimicked the analysis also offered in a response by the company in an online video posted that same afternoon on the Kashi Facebook page.  The video spokesperson called Cornucopia’s information "scientifically inaccurate and misleading because it was not based on actual testing of Kashi products."

"This characterization of our work by Kashi is blatantly false," said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director.  "We purchased a readily available box of Kashi’s GoLean® cereal from a Whole Foods store.  We then sent a sample to an accredited national lab for testing, finding that the soy in the natural cereal was 100% GMO."

It's a good reminder: We can't trust companies to do the right thing when money is on the line. Want to be sure your breakfast is GMO-free? Look for the organic symbol on your box.

What do you think? Will this news change your cereal-buying habits?

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