One of America’s most popular and fastest growing “fast-casual” chains, Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), has decided to stop using any GMO ingredients – and it’s but the latest blow to biotech giants such as Monsanto.
The restaurant chain sent out a press release noting that all the ingredients served at its taco and burrito restaurants and its subsidiary, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, are now non-GMO.
The move makes Chipotle the first major national restaurant chain in the US to eliminate GMOs.
GMOs are genetically modified crops that have had DNA introduced that didn’t occur naturally,
“There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods,” Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ell said. “Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption. While that debate continues, we decided to move to non-GMO ingredients.”
Everything used at Chipotle, including tortillas, corn, spices and oil, is now GMO-free.
It’s not easy going GMO-free. As Chipotle noted, 94 percent of corn and 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. More than 80 percent of food in the US contains at least one GMO ingredient.
The move to non-GMO foods “did not result in significantly higher ingredient costs” for the company, Chipotle said. Sunflower oil will replace soybean oil, which was the primary GMO ingredient in the foods. Suppliers also planted non-GMO corn for the company.
Of course, Chipotle is only one restaurant, but the news was significant, said Jonathan Latham at IndependentScienceNews.com
“There has long been an incipient crack in the solid public front that the food industry has presented on the GMO issue,” Latham said. “The crack originates from the fact that while agribusiness sees GMOs as central to their business future, the brand-oriented and customer-sensitive ends of the food supply chain do not.”
Companies such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Kraft are not as committed to GMO ingredients as previously thought, he argues. One huge company, General Mills, dropped GMO ingredients from Cheerios.
“As the reputation of GMOs has come under increasing pressure in the US, the cost to food brands of ignoring the growing consumer demand for GMO-free products has increased,” Latham said. “They might not say so in public, but the sellers of top brands have little incentive to take the flack for selling GMOs. From this perspective, the significance of the Chipotle move becomes clear.
“If Chipotle,” he added, “can gain market share and prestige, or charge higher prices, from selling non-GMO products and give (especially young) consumers what they want, it puts traditional vendors of fast and processed food products in an invidious position. Kraft and McDonalds, and their traditional rivals can hardly be left on the sidelines selling outmoded products to a shrinking market. They will not last long.”
Chipotle Wins, McDonald’s Loses
Chipotle is also one of the hottest investments on Wall Street. Its stock was trading at $621.08 a share on May 26. Fast food industry observers blame the recent troubles at McDonald’s on the success of “fast-casual” chains like Chipotle. Fast casual dining chains often emphasize high quality food and healthy ingredients rather than traditional fast food.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in 452 cities in 48 countries to demonstrate against Monsanto in late May. The third annual March against Monsanto took place in cities across the US and Canada and in cities around the world.
“Looking for mass suicide? Go for Roundup,” said a sign at a rally in the French city of Rennes, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
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