What Message is General Mills Sending with Cheerios?

Julie Gunlock had an interesting editorial in the USA Today on General Mills decision to go "GMO free" with Cheerios.  She points out the tough pickle food companies are finding themselves in:

It is understandable that food companies are desperate to find a way to please their critics and reach détente with the powerful anti-GM movement. Yet, it appears these companies have settled on a strategy combining meek contrition (we're sorry we use perfectly safe GM ingredients) and appeasement (we'll get rid of perfectly safe GM ingredients in some…but not all…products). This squishy and schizophrenic policy will accomplish one thing: it will make the problem much worse.

For starters, while General Mills publicly states on its website that the company agrees with the wide consensus among scientists that GM ingredients are safe, the change to Cheerios sends a very different message to consumers: We've made the product safer. Do they mean to suggest Cheerios was previously unsafe.

From a business standpoint, by suggesting Cheerios has been made safer, the company puts its other products — those that still contain GM ingredients — in a bad light. The company might be spinning this as providing consumers more choices, but organic cereals (which cannot contain GM ingredients) have been available for years. Cheerios is hardly breaking ground.

I'm not sure I'd expect food companies to make a principled stand for scientific evidence when they could make money doing otherwise.  However, as Julie points out, it isn't even all that clear that this move is in the long-term best economic interest of the company even if it does cause a quick, short term bump in market share.