When it comes to our food, genetically modified ingredients don’t make the cut.
Chipotle is on a never-ending journey to source the highest quality ingredients we can find. Over the years, as we have learned more about GMOs, we’ve decided that using them in our food doesn’t align with that vision. Chipotle was the first national restaurant company to disclose the GMO ingredients in our food, and now we are the first to cook only with non-GMO ingredients.
WHAT IS A GMO?
A GMO is created by inserting genes from one species (typically bacteria or a virus) into the DNA of another. This can result in a plant with characteristics that wouldn’t occur naturally, such as producing pesticides or the ability to withstand high doses of chemical herbicides.
Not all GMOs are designed in the same way. Crops can be engineered to do a number of different things. The traits that cause the most concern to agricultural, environmental, and medical experts are:
1. Herbicide Resistance: Plants engineered to survive applications of glyphosate, a chemical that would otherwise kill them.
2. Pesticide Production: Plants engineered to produce insecticidal toxins.
Why did we remove GMOs from our food?
One reason customers love Chipotle is that we use great ingredients. For us this means great taste, but it also means that the 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. Here are the three key reasons.
SCIENTISTS ARE STILL STUDYING THE LONG TERM IMPLICATIONS OF GMOs.
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.
The manufacturers of GMO seeds claim that GMOs are widely considered to be safe, but we don’t believe the scientific community has reached a consensus on the long-term implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption. For example, in October 2013 a group of about 300 scientists from around the world signed a statement rejecting the claim that there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs for human consumption. These scientists would like to see more research conducted, and they’d like more of the research to be conducted by independent third parties, not the companies marketing GMO crops themselves. Until such studies are conducted, we believe it is prudent to take a cautious approach toward GMOs.
THE CULTIVATION OF GMOs CAN DAMAGE THE ENVIRONMENT.
Evidence suggests that GMOs engineered to produce pesticides or withstand powerful chemical herbicides damage beneficial insect populations and create herbicide resistant super-weeds.
The companies that sell GMO seeds claim that certain genetically modified crops are better for the environment because they reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides used in farming. But this has not been shown to be the case. One recent study by researchers at Washington State University estimated that between 1996 and 2011, pesticide and herbicide use increased by more than 400 million pounds as a result of GMO cultivation. This and other evidence suggests that GMO crops are fueling an escalating arms race with weeds and insects.
Chipotle should be a place where people can eat food made with non-GMO ingredients.
In our quest to serve the best ingredients, we decided to remove the few GMOs in our food so that our customers who choose to avoid them can enjoy eating at Chipotle.
For the last 21 years, Chipotle has been making high-quality whole ingredients prepared using classic cooking techniques accessible to all. To that end, we want our customers to have access to ingredients that have not been genetically modified.
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. We hope these principles of transparency and honesty extend beyond consumers to everyone who has a stake in the food system, and Chipotle respects the right of every farmer, rancher and grower to follow practices that make sense for their business, even if they do not make sense for ours.
Which ingredients in Chipotle’s food were previously genetically modified?
Of the eight common GMO crops cultivated in the U.S., only two were found as ingredients in Chipotle’s food.
93% of corn grown in the U.S. in 2014 was genetically modified. This includes 76% of corn that is both herbicide resistant and pesticide producing, with the remainder engineered for only one of those traits. 94% of the soy grown in the U.S. in 2014 was engineered for glyphosate resistance.
The World Health Organization recently designated Glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The use of glyphosate is extremely widespread. More than 9% of the landmass of the continental United States is planted with crops genetically modified for glyphosate resistance. Given the concerns surrounding these types of GMOs and the chemicals associated with them, we felt it was particularly important to seek out non-GMO ingredients when possible.
All corn-based ingredients in Chipotle’s food that formerly may have been genetically modified have been removed or replaced with non-GMO versions, while all soy-derived ingredients that may have been genetically modified were replaced with alternatives, such as rice bran oil and sunflower oil. The white sweet corn in Chipotle’s roasted chili-corn salsa has always been a non-GMO variety. The organic soybeans used to make the tofu for our Sofritas are not genetically modified, like all certified organic ingredients.
What About Beverages and Animal Feed?
The meat and dairy products we buy come from animals that are not genetically modified. But it is important to note that 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.
Many of the beverages sold in our restaurants contain genetically modified ingredients, including those containing high fructose corn syrup, which is almost always made from GMO corn.