Chipotle Goes GMO-Free

Rodale News

As McDonald’s closes 350 restaurants worldwide (220 in the U.S.), Chipotle just raised the bar on fast food—again! The Mexican grill restaurant, known for investing in safer, more humane ingredients, has just announced that its banning GMOs from the menu.

Chipotle has been using organic, non-GMO tofu since 2013, but this new menu-wide ban on GMO’s will also boot GMO corn out of tortillas. The soy used in tortillas and cooking oil will also be GMO-free. This is impressive considering that more than 93 percent of domestic corn and soy grown in the U.S. in 2014 came from genetically engineered seeds.

This is the first national chain to ban GMOs, and other fast food restaurants may need to get onboard with Chipotle’s model of “food with integrity.” The proof is in the numbers: While Chipotle has expienced 28 percent growth in sales, McDonalds suffered a 2 percent decrease.

“Chipotle is really showing that there’s a better way to do fast food,” Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells told CNNMoney. “They say these ingredients are safe, but I think we all know we’d rather have food that doesn’t contain them.”

One major issue with GMOs is that they’re often designed to withstand chemical pesticide applications, something that would kill a non-GMO plant. Unfortunately, this means that those chemicals are transferred inside plants (and you) at alarmingly high levels. More and more research suggests these chemicals hurt your health. Pesticides are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and obesity. Roundup has been specifically linked to antibiotic resistance, gut disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and fertility problems.

Chipotle reps say the company is removing GMOs because the long-term health implications of GMOs aren’t clear, and the studies finding them safe are funded by companies that make GMO seeds, like Monsanto. (Can you say conflict of interest?)

And the potential health threat isn’t Chipotle’s only concern. Chipotle prides itself on environmentally sustainable ingredients, sourcing from local farms that respect the soil. (Think pasture-raised livestock.)

For example, when they couldn’t find humanely-raised pork, they faced shortages of their wildly popular carnitas bowls rather than sacrifice standards. GMOs also fall short of their standards because the agrochemicals used on them are harmful to the environment, hurting pollinators [link] and creating herbicide-resistant weeds, the company notes.

“It’s relatively easy for us to have non-GMO ingredients because we don’t have many ingredients in the first place,” says Ells. “Like artificial additives, preservatives—we’d just rather not be a part of that.” He points out that a standard fast food burrito has about 80 ingredients, while a Chipotle burrito, by our count, has more like 40. (And you can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients.)

So what’s next? In the fight against factory farming, Chipotle says that the next steps will be to switch to non-GMO fed meat.