In April, the high-class Mexican food chain Chipotle announced that it was going GMO-free. That is, the company would no longer use ingredients derived from modern biotech crops.
Chipotle says it sells “food with integrity.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and fair.” In making this decision, alas, the company is being neither honest nor fair about the safety and environmental benefits provided by modern genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Chipotle hopes that marketing their decision to eschew ingredients from modern biotech crops will be good for their bottom line. But will it? Perhaps not.
Consider the case of non-GMO Cheerios. In 2014, General Mills announced with great fanfare that it was dropping biotech ingredients in its iconic Cheerios cereal. The move has apparently had no effect on sales. CEO Ken Powell told the Associated Press that the company was “not really seeing anything there that we can detect” in terms of a sales lift. He further opined that GMOs aren’t really a concern for most customers.
Still, dupes of anti-biotech propaganda are evidently buying some quack non-GMO products. The Natural Society health website reported earlier this year that verified GMO-free food sales reached $8.5 billion in 2014 and that demand is growing faster than many conventional food products.
Private companies like Chipotle have the right to try to sell whatever they want. But they cannot claim that they are acting with integrity.
Editor’s note: Chipotle released second quarter earnings this week, which catalogues sales and profits in the wake of its anti-GMO campaign. According to analysts, same store sales increased but that was entirely linked to price increases, as growth has slowed, with Chipotle predicting shrinking growth in the year ahead. It’s shares slid 5 percent on the news.
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