The company made the announcement in a blog post Thursday saying it would no longer source genetically modified corn and sugar to make the breakfast cereal rings. It said whole grain oats, the chief ingredient, was never available in genetically modified varietals.
"Why change anything at all? It's simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it," Tom Forsythe, vice president of global communications for General Mills, said in the blog post.
Forsythe said the shift was not driven by fears over any dangers associated with genetically modified foods.
It is "not about safety," he said. "Biotech seeds, also known as genetically modified seeds, have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in global food crops for almost 20 years.
"And it was never about pressure. In fact, this change is not much of a change at all. The product is essentially the same. The simple and unique nature of Cheerios made it possible – and we think consumers may embrace it."
The move applies only to original Cheerios, not other varieties of the cereal. The familiar yellow box will now say "not made with genetically modified ingredients," Forsythe said.
Activists have been pushing for more labeling on foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Ballot measures in Washington state and California calling for more labeling have both failed.