Monday, May 11, 2015

Chipotle Cuts GMO Ingredients from its Menu

By Vanna Garcia

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced on April 27 that it will only use non-GMO ingredients in its food, making it the first large U.S. restaurant chain to make a bold statement against genetically modified ingredients.

On its website, the company posted: “A farewell to GMOs: When it comes to our food, genetically modified ingredients don’t make the cut.”

This is not the first time the Tex-Mex food company has made headlines.

In 2013, Chipotle became the first restaurant chain to label items that contained GMOs, which helped fortify a decade-long food movement in the U.S. that has health advocates questioning whether GMO foods are safe for consumers.

In the U.S., eight genetically modified crops are grown: corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, zucchini, squash and papaya. More than 90 percent of the country’s agriculture come from seeds that have at least one genetically engineered trait, according to Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Genetically modifying food happens when scientists take a gene that controls the desired trait in one plant and add it into a different plant. The results can vary, but this practice makes for the production of more food items, which keep the prices of everyday foods reasonably low. Pro GMO users also argue that scientists can create crops that contain more vital nutrients than those that are naturally harvested.

The other side of the debate argues that the long-term effect of adding new genes to common foods can be harmful to consumers, a claim that, on numerous occasions, has been unfounded or disproven by the FDA. Those against GMOs also worry that foods made to resist disease will linger in our bodies or create “superweeds” that will not react to pesticides and herbicides.

Many other people have taken to social media to voice their disapproval for Chipotle’s decision.

People have claimed that the food giant’s “fog and smoke” gimmick, which many feel is an advertising stunt by the company to attract health conscious consumers, is not really about being healthy at all since Chipotle will continue to sell sugary drinks that contain genetically modified ingredients such as corn syrup, which is almost always made from GMO corn.

For several years, several chains have been called out for high fat and poor quality menu options, leading to fast food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King to revamp their menus. But Chipotle has always touted its commitment to serving “food with integrity” by using locally sourced ingredients that are free of additives and hormones and preparing ingredients by hand.

Chipotle’s health conscious decision will come at a cost, however.

It is uncertain if other major restaurant chains will follow Chipotle’s lead, since other companies realize the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining the amounts of non-GMO ingredients. Unlike its competitors, Chipotle only uses 68 ingredients, including salt and pepper, whereas other companies use around 81, according to an article published by The New York Times.

The possibility that we will see other companies change to non-GMO ingredients is unclear and unlikely, at least for now.

“Say that to live up to the promise of being non-GMO, you need a non-GMO ingredient that accounts for just 1 percent of your formula,” Nicole Bernard Dawes, founder and chief executive of Late July Snacks, said in the Times article. “If you have a supply shortage in that ingredient, you can’t produce your product.”

In the past, Chipotle has had a shortage of beef, and last December, the company announced that it could not supply all of its stores with the pork needed for carnitas, a specialty item on the menu.

Due to the high costs of maintaining non-GMO items on its menu, Chipotle consumers will likely see increased menu prices between three and five percent. Chipotle sources grass-fed beef, but finding non-GMO raised chicken and pork will be a challenge for the fast food giant, since there is not enough non-GMO feed.

Despite all the speculation, Chipotle continues to stand by its decision to promote healthier eating habits by offering even more ways to stay healthy.

The company includes a nutrition calculator on its website that measures the nutritional intake of all its menu options, which consist mostly of burritos and tacos.

The connection between how food tastes and how it is prepared has a lot to do with each other, Chipotle’s website says.

For more information:

Vanna Garcia is a senior at Ramapo College. She is a Communications major concentrating in journalism with a sociology minor. As an editor for The Ramapo News, she uses her campus presence to voice the concerns of the student body. Vanna hopes to become a global activist through her writing by delivering real and accurate portrayals of worldwide sociocultural issues that affect us all. 

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