The tug of war between producers who support and plant genetically modified crops and those consumers who resist eating food containing them continues. Two news items the past week illustrate.

On Jan. 3, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) issued a release expressing its support for an announcement that day by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) that it will move forward with the process to deregulate a specific set of genetically engineered corn and soybean plants resistant to specific herbicides, including 2,4-D. The USDA said it would move to the next step in its regulatory process, Jan. 10. It will post the draft Environmental Impact Statement to the Federal Register and ask for public comment.

An NCGA spokesperson said the APHIS news is welcomed by farmers because it is important for producers to have access to "proven, innovative technologies that continually allow them to improve American agriculture."

The APHIS process will determine whether the specific plants outlined are any danger to other crops or crop products through the Plant Protection Act (PPA). The PPA, according to APHIS, defines a plant pest as organisms such as insects, bacteria or fungi that can injure or damage plants or plant products.

If the PPA process determines there is no such danger, APHIS must then evaluate potential impact to the environment. All these processes eventually could lead to deregulating the specific GMOs. But, the idea is to open up as many GMOs as are deemed safe, giving farmers more planting options.

But, what's good for Mr. Farmer, may not be good for Mr. Consumer. Or, so sayeth General Mills, makers of the original Cheerios cereal. The company has announced it will begin manufacturing (and selling) original Cheerios sans any GMOs.

General Mills announced Jan. 3 that it is no longer using genetically engineered ingredients to make its signature cereal, according to a copyrighted report in The Los Angeles Times. The change came, The Times reported, after a year-long campaign by a consumer advocacy group, GMO Inside, organized by Green America.

The Times reported that the food giant stopped sourcing bioengineered corn starch and sugar cane for its original Cheerios. Whole grain oats, which is the main ingredient, is not affected by the change, "because they are not available in genetically modified varieties."

The company maintains that government-approved genetically engineered foods are safe to eat, The Times reported. The company also denied "that outside pressure motivated the change." The only explanation released by the company was that it believed "the new formulation would be popular."

A director of the anti-GMO campaign said, "We decided General Mills and Cheerios were a good place to focus our energy because a large company like that could have a major impact," The Times reported.

While anti-GMO sentiments are high in Europe and some Asian markets, they have not heretofore held sway in the U.S. However, other food brands have gone GMO-free in recent months, including Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The restaurant chain Chipotle quit featuring the popular Greek yogurt, Chobani, because it contains GMOs.

The battle goes on between science, agriculture and radical consumerism. Will there be an expanded battle against GMOs in the U.S.? According to The Times, the Cheerios experiment will go a long ways toward telling the tale.

I'll see ya!