Chipotle—now coming off the first quarterly loss in the company’s history amid a serious food safety crisis—makes a big show about how it doesn’t use genetically improved foods (better known as GMOs) in its burritos. But a new decision by yogurt manufacturer Dannon illustrates just one of the many loopholes in Chipotle’s policy:
Dannon says it will use only non-GMO ingredients in its three flagship brands – Dannon, Oikos and Danimals – by summer 2016 (when Vermont’s new GMO labeling law comes into effect), but has also pledged to transition these brands to using milk from cows fed non-GMO feed within three years.
By gradually transitioning to non-GMO feed, Dannon is adhering to the strictest definition of non-GMO.
Chipotle does not follow this definition of non-GMO — its meat animals can eat feed produced from genetically improved crops. And many beverages sold by Chipotle also contain ingredients produced using GMOs, which drew a consumer lawsuit (that was dismissed) and one that a judge recently ruled can move towards trial later this year.
This doesn’t make Dannon’s position right—a scientific consensus recognizes that genetically improved foods are as safe as other foods. Chipotle’s experience with poo-ritos is also a warning that supposed “food with integrity” (which might as well be called “food with chemicals,” given that it and all food is made of chemicals) is itself susceptible to contamination.
Chipotle is paying the price for its dishonest, anti-agriculture advertising. It created expectations of safety and quality that it failed to live up to. Now, Americans are getting their burritos elsewhere.