How is Chipotle’s PR gimmick going? Left and right agree food chain public face of science illiteracy

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Chipotle wins the science ‘foot in mouth’ award for 2015, and we are not even to summer. More than 40 media condemnations and counting.

The fast food chain’s “bold” move, announcing a faux ban on GMOs in its food, has blown up big time. Why faux? Because as Chipotle well knows, its sodas, beef, pork and chicken dishes, and any food with cheese, are made with ingredients that derived through genetically engineering.

In other words, a Chipotle meal was, and remains, the definition of a GMO meal. Which is why it’s bungled opportunistic attempt to capitalize on anti-GMO hysteria is so delicious to those with a modicum of respect for science and the intelligence of consumers.

Chipotle has taken food marketing hypocrisy to new heights, say its critics–and we are not talking about complaints from Big Ag or Big Food. In fact, in the week since Chipotle made its announcement, one would be hard pressed to find any nutritionist, scientist, health advocate or science journalist who has defended Chipotle’s crass marketing ploy.

Gregory Jaffe, a biotechnology specialist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said it well in an interview with New York magazine: In banning GMOs, Chipotle “seem[s] to suggest that their products are somehow healthier or safer,” he said. “In reality, what Chipotle and consumers should care about is that their burritos have almost 1000 calories and huge amounts of salt.”

chiptole calories

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A New York Timesanalysis found that many of its meals exceed 1600 calories, and it’s not unusual for Chipotle’s customers to chow down more than 2000 calories per meal–well exceeding a healthy person’s entire daily calorie allowance. And that’s without a soda, almost certainly sweetened with sugar made from genetically engineered sugar beets, adding an additional 250 calories or more.

Chipotle has also pulled off a rare accomplishment: it’s managed to unite the ideological left and right among scientists and journalists, a rare occurrence on a controversial science issues. Credible news sources, from the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times to NPR to the Wall Street Journal–even to Mother Jones on the far left and National Review on the hard right–and taking justifiable potshots at the new face of science illiteracy and hypocrisy. Its defenders? A motley crew of increasingly strident anti-GMO zealots like Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Organic and the Just Label It NGO; to America’s celebrity anti-GMO chef Tom Colicchio; to creepy extremist quacks, like Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com.

Here’s a list on Storify, assembled and updated by Mary Mangan of major media reaction to the Chipotle science shuffle:

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For the full, clickable list linked to many of the stories across the web, click HERE.

To view each story individually, click below:

  • Liquid

    And yet Chipotle will probably do better than ever with their announcement. Why? Because they give their customers a choice. Something biotech would never think of doing.

    Some day, the biotech industry will realize that and give up this brute force assault on people’s choices. They’ll realize thinking yourself as better than the average consumer rubs said consumers the wrong way.

    • Soild

      Liquid,

      Did you even read the article? There are still many GMO foods in a Chipotle meal. Not that this matters anyways as THERE IS NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE between a GMO food and a non-GMO food.

  • “Scientific illiteracy”?–just as big a problem is that many people attribute to our puny, young science a breadth of insight and understanding that is altogether undeserved. And many scientifically informed people do things that have absolutely attrocious effects on humankind and the biosphere.

    • SageThinker

      The science around glyphosate, my focus, shows that it is likely that the chemical changes the composition of the human gut microbiome, favoring pathogenic bacteria and disfavoring beneficial bacteria. It’s ecological, but the paradigm is deterministic materialism, i.e. corporate biochemistry.

      • Or is it plain determined materialism–the rich get richer, because they own the legislature, the courts, and executive, the laws, the institutions, the scientists, the journals, the media, the banks, the military, the police, and even the minds. Come, light to us.

      • Everything we eat affects the gut bacteria. You are chasing ghosts.