Chipotle has made the announcement that they are removing GMOs (genetically modified ingredients) from their food, making the Mexican restaurant the first national fast food chain to do so. The ingredients replaced are corn, used in corn and flour tortillas, and soy, used in cooking oil and flour tortillas. 93% of corn grown last year in the US was genetically modified, including 76% that is herbicide resistant and produces pesticides. 94% of soy grown in the US last year was created to resist the pesticide glyphosate – also known as RoundUp, Rodeo, and Pondmaster. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans."
So why did Chipotle take this dramatic step? From their website: “[T]he food we serve should be made with ingredients raised with care for animals, farmers, and the environment. We’re doubtful that the GMO ingredients that used to be in our food meet these criteria.” Chipotle states that although there have been some studies that found GMOs to be safe, most of the research for those studies was funded by the GMO companies. Chipotle doesn’t believe that the scientific community has reached a consensus and is calling for more independent studies. “Until such studies are conducted, we believe it is prudent to take a cautious approach toward GMOs.”
Another reason Chipotle has removed GMOs is due to the damage they cause the environment in their cultivation. By engineering GMOs to self-produce pesticides or to be able to survive being sprayed with herbicides, they kill beneficial insect populations. This has also led the evolution of super-weeds, which are now resistant to herbicides. Rather than reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides needed to grow GMO crops, as the manufacturers have claimed, GMO seeds have increased pesticide use by more than 400 million pounds between 1996 and 2011, say researchers at Washington State University.
Currently, Chipotle admits that while their meat and dairy are not GMO, “most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed. We are working hard on this challenge, and have made substantial progress: for example, the 100% grass-fed beef served in many Chipotle restaurants was not fed GMO grain—or any grain, for that matter.” As for the sodas and other beverages Chipotle sells, those that contain corn syrup remain GMO, as most corn syrup comes from GMO corn.
What about GMO advocates claiming that using non-GMOs would lead to higher prices? According to Chipotle, the increase in costs associated with making the switch was not significant, and they have not raised their prices.