Chipotle pulls an anti-GMO PR move

Is this really feasible? Does it make sense?

Chipotle dumps GMOs: Why the fast food chain’s latest achievement is so unprecedented – Salon.com.

Chipotle, the “fast-causal” chain widely praised for catalyzing the downfall of McDonalds, has gone (nearly) GMO-free. The company announced Monday that it’s succeeded in ridding its menu of food made with genetically engineered ingredients — a first, it says, for any national restaurant chain.

The FDA maintains that GMOs are safe, but many argue that we know little about their long-term health effects and, perhaps more pertinently, that they’re an unsavory representative of industrialized agriculture. Regardless of how you feel about them, Chipotle’s made it clear that they don’t jibe with its “all-natural” aspirations, and their continued presence on its menu has been one of the shortcomings tripping the company up in its quest to be as ethical as possible while still serving meat.

That the aggressively enlightened chain had GMOs to begin with may strike some as surprising. And its reform emphasizes two basic truths about the modern food industry: it takes a lot of ingredients to make a “convenience food,” while a lot of the basics are near-exclusively genetically modified.

What this article doesn’t emphasize is WHY GMO foods are so ubiquitous and hard to do without – it’s part of modern agriculture. Is Chipotle pandering to those who think GMOs need to be banned? It seems like a lot of effort and increased costs (to be passed on to consumers) to do this just for public relations.

One hint that Chipotle is a bit off the mark is this quote from Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle.

“Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors.”

That has exactly nothing to do with GMOs. And, they can’t really pull it off since they admit that some of the soft drinks it sells are likely to contain sweeteners made from GM corn, and that some of its meat and dairy supplies come from animals fed GM grains. Eating GMOs does not make you a GMO but it should signal to consumers that GMO-free restaurants are not all they are cracked up to be.

We’ve had genetically modified organisms for a very long time, since the beginning of agriculture (which is not natural) depending on your definition. Also, depending upon how you define “natural”, what’s so natural about food delivered from heated trays to a plastic bowl? Or, you might say everything that humans produce can be natural because we’re all part of nature. The semantics will trip us up and we have technology that makes life safer, better and more convenient.

The discussion about GMOs is not just about food safety. It’s about economics, the environment, agricultural practices, and fair business practices, among other things. It’s also NOT simply about being “natural” or not. There’s nothing simple at all about the GMO discussion and to make it so is a gross misunderstanding. That Chipotle would go this route will make some customers happy but will also turn others off because of what appears to be taking customer concerns (that may be baseless and hypocritical) to a rather ridiculous (some say anti-science) extreme.

There are many and varied good reasons to use GM foods and many and various reasons to want to modify the process and the business of producing food these days. It’s unclear if Chipotle’s confusing goals for their products will help or harm public understanding about the food we eat.

Genetically Modified Foods.

All natural?

All natural?

  20 comments for “Chipotle pulls an anti-GMO PR move

  1. CLamb
    April 28, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    I expect Chipotle will only be selling foods based on organisms that have not evolved since they were created by God.

  2. Rand
    April 28, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    The modern cows/pigs/chickens that they use are very far crys from their wild ancestors. are they also switching to using hunted wild boar, pheasants, and wild buffalo/deer? (not really sure where they could find a wild, not-human-modified equivalent of a cow, since its wild cousin is long since extinct)

  3. Colonel Tom
    April 28, 2015 at 7:37 PM

    You are calling selective breeding equivalent to trans-species genetic modification?

  4. Lagaya1
    April 28, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    Just the next logical step in the process.

  5. MisterNeutron
    April 29, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    Ban mules!!! Those Frankenequines will destroy the planet.

    Trans-species gene transfer occurs quite often in nature, with no human intervention whatsoever. It’s been going on for hundreds of millions of years. Many modern genetic modifications, on the other hand, do not involve any trans-species transfers. It’s not a simple distinction.

    Here’s an eye-opener! http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21646197-human-beings-ancestors-have-routinely-stolen-genes-other-species-genetically

  6. WMcCreery`
    April 29, 2015 at 2:31 AM

    Jersey Mike’s sub shop has an ad that stresses that they don’t use scary sounding ingredients.

  7. Sindigo
    April 29, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    In fairness, if they did I’d be more likely to eat there. 😉

  8. MisterNeutron
    April 29, 2015 at 8:34 AM

    I’m not so sure about that. Those “Kaiser rolls” sound very alarming to me, like they might have something to do with mobilizing along the border!

  9. don salter
    April 29, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    Well folks,

    Turns out natural sweet potatoes are naturally transgenic (twice!) by Agrobacterium and some of the genes are expressed: see http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/04/14/1419685112.abstract

    I’m thinking there will be more natural plants that will have this Agrobacterium in its germ line. so go figure!

    So how will be anti-gmo people deal with these published, scientific findings?

  10. Colonel Tom
    April 29, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    Mules, are causing no massive trans-species genetic transfer into the biosphere. Mules are not patented by a handful of monopolistic agribusiness. Mules are not spurring the evolution of Round-up resistant weeds.

  11. MisterNeutron
    April 29, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    Not my point at all. Nice strawman, though!

  12. Kurt
    April 29, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    Yeah! But that’s natural so it’s, uh, better? All natural things are good for you! Like ricin and arsenic and snake venom!

  13. MisterNeutron
    April 29, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    Sigh. Another one who’s missing the point. One more time….

    Many who object to GMO’s base their objection on the notion that “god never intended to have genetic material migrate horizontally, between species!” But that’s clearly not true – it happens in nature all the time. And, on the flip side of the coin, many GMO’s do not involve any inter-species gene migration.

    So, that reason for opposing GMO’s makes no sense. There may be other reasons, but that one is clearly bogus.

  14. Bill T.
    April 29, 2015 at 10:13 PM

    It gives folks the impression of power over their lives, bucking “The Big Guys”, …

  15. Graham
    April 30, 2015 at 8:58 PM

    What the American People think they want, they will get…

  16. Bokra
    May 3, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    “Many who object to GMO’s base their objection on the notion that “god never intended to have genetic material migrate horizontally, between species!””

    Now that is a genuine straw man argument. I have never heard anyone who is opposed to GMO’s in the UK talk about god. Rightly or wrongly they are more concerned about some of the companies that hold the patents. Look at Monsanto’s wiki page. There is a huge amount about them trying to control farmers liveliehoods all over the world. They have also been in some rather distateful non-GMO products. Agent Orange anyone?

  17. May 3, 2015 at 4:36 PM

    Monsanto’s business practices are an ENTIRELY different argument than the safety of GMO. Talk about a logical fallacy — no one is eating Agent Orange. Stick to the focus of the discussion.

    [I’m not sure I’ve EVER seen a GMO discussion NOT go off the rails about evil Monsanto…]

  18. Bokra
    May 4, 2015 at 1:22 AM

    I apologise. I thought we were discussing general opposition to GMO’s rather than the far more specific are they all bad to eat.

  19. Colonel Tom
    May 5, 2015 at 7:23 PM

    Actually, I did too, but then I watch a bunch of “straw man” arguments worthy of the best tobacco lobbyist thrown around. If it was not before, it has become painfully obvious that rather than a well reasoned discourse, I can expect little more than the normal dogmatic and poorly reasoned justification of the speaker’s prejudices. Upon that realization I shall say my goodbyes. To say that the discussion when “off-the rail” is offensive to reason discourse, as I see that as the pivotal point of discussion, along with the bio-risk of having near genetic uniformity in the worlds food crops. That worked real well for potatoes. That some would attempt to support their viewpoint with a discredited article from The Economist, as opposed to say the accurate Union of Concerned Scientist, just says volumes upon the low quality of the discourse here.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering-agriculture#.VUlMD_lVjBF

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