Conning the Consumer

Chipotle Con

Chipotle’s move to go Non-GMO

Last week, Chipotle, an American fast food company, announced that it has removed all GM ingredients from the menus of its 1800 chain restaurants. In its announcement, we at SAIFood feel there are numerous errors that need to be corrected.

Chipotle’s announcement states:

…the food we serve should be made with ingredients raised with care for animals, farmers, and the environment.

SAIFood fact: Chipotle has no regard for farm stewardship practices or environmental sustainability.

Herbicide application: Actual herbicide-resistant (HR) canola vs. projected without HR canola. The future of canola produced without HR canola faces a greater use of herbicides than it would under GM use.
Herbicide application: Actual herbicide-resistant (HR) canola vs. projected without HR canola.
Without GM canola, 38% more chemicals would have had to been applied to produce canola.

By rejecting GM crops as a source of ingredients Chipotle is telling farmers that they are not good stewards of the land. Outside of the equipment used on farms, the most valuable and necessary asset that farmers pass on to their children is the quality of the land. No farmer would intently mismanage their land and then pass it on to their children, expecting them to be able to make a living farming, yet this is what Chipotle is saying about GM farmers. By rejecting GM crops, Chipotle is supporting unsustainable agricultural practices. For instance canola oil used for deep frying comes from GM canola plants, and by supporting the production of non-GM canola, Chipotle is supporting the use of canola chemicals with a 16% to 55% higher ecological impact than GM canola higher ecological impact than GM canola. Another similar case to avoid GM would be the switch from soybean to sunflower oil, which would involve the use of chemicals that have a 22% higher ecological impact.

Chipotle’s announcement states:

While some studies have shown GMOs to be safe, most of this research was funded by companies that sell GMO seeds and did not evaluate long-term effects. More independent studies are needed.

SAIFood fact: Chipotle is intentionally ignoring hundreds of published reports on the safety of GMOs.

With this comment, Chipotle is lying! The long-term effects of every GM crop being produced has already been evaluated by hundreds of regulatory scientists around the world; not to mention that many of these regulatory agencies duplicated studies trails, finding no evidence of any harms. For example, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s office in St. Hyacinth, Quebec used to routinely replicate the studies submitted in support of GM crops. After about a decade of duplicating these studies and finding no difference with those submitted by the technology developer, this practice was ended as it was an inefficient use of regulatory funding. Not only have Canadian and American regulators found GM crops safe, so have European regulators. In a 2010 report that examined 50 research projects, involving over 400 research groups between 2001 and 2010, not a single finding that suggested even the slightly harm, risk or danger from GM crops or GMOs were found. GM crops have undergone risk assessments, been regulated and produced for 20 years now, without safety concerns, validating the long-term benefits of GM crops. This is verified through hundreds of academic peer-reviewed publications.

Chipotle’s announcement states:

The cultivation of GMOs can damage the environment.

SAIFood fact: Chipotle relies on one biased, discredited study to make this claim.

Compared to the pristine state of nature, all forms of agriculture production can be viewed as damaging the environment, conventional, GM and organics. The alternative is to not use land to produce food. Chipotle bases this accusation on the work of Charles Benbrook who is a noted opponent of GM crops. Benbrook’s assessment is flawed in that he assumes an annual 5% increase in GM crop adoption and this over inflates his estimates of herbicide use. For example, 100% of the canola grown in Canada is herbicide tolerant and has been since 2006, so the adoption rate can’t have increased a 5% per year for the past 9 years.

Chipotle’s announcement states:

We believe everyone should be given enough information about where their food comes from and how it was raised to choose for themselves what they feed their families.

SAIFood fact: This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

Chipotle’s use of selective and biased information shows what little respect they have for their customers. The message Chipotle sends to consumers by intentionally misleading them is that as consumers, they are not capable of deciding for themselves as to what is environmentally sustainable. Consumers are concerned about the safety of their food products, but are also savvy enough to know when they are being conned by a slick-talking salesman.

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