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Chipotle Is Saying No To GMOs. Here's Why.

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The values behind our Food With Integrity philosophy influence virtually every decision made at Chipotle.

We have lots to say about what Food With Integrity stands for, but it is, simply put, a vision for continuous improvement of the ingredients that we source for the foods that we prepare and serve to our customers. The vision is driven by the fact that the food landscape never stops changing, and there's always room to be better.

This mentality, and the standards that have evolved as a result, are responsible for an initiative that brought Chipotle a lot of attention--both positive and negative--over the last year: our decision to voluntarily disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food and our commitment to remove the GMOs from our food to the fullest extent possible.

We knew at the time that showing the world which of our menu items is likely to contain GMOs and working to eliminate these same ingredients would present some hurdles. But in the end, these were easy decisions to make, because they are consistent with two values that form the foundation of Food With Integrity.

First, we have always been committed to learning as much as possible about where our food comes from, and being as transparent as possible. Disclosing the GMOs on our menu followed naturally from this.

Second, we have always sought to ensure that our food not only tastes delicious, but that it is also nourishing. We believe that everyone, including Chipotle customers, should have access to food made from ingredients produced in a way that preserves farms and rural communities for future generations. And we know that without healthy soil, you can't produce healthy food. Given the possibility that widespread cultivation and consumption of genetically modified ingredients could compromise these things, we feel a responsibility to our customers to seek out non-GMO alternatives whenever possible.

This decision has been portrayed as controversial. Critics claim that disclosure is expensive and that we can't feed the world without GMOs. We're always willing to consider the possibility that we don't have all the answers, but try as we might, it's been tough for us to come up with a rock-solid argument against Chipotle's position on GMOs.

Multiple national surveys have been conducted about GMO labeling and the consumer's right to know what's in our food. The results have been fairly consistent: more than 90% of Americans are in favor of knowing when they are eating foods made with genetically modified ingredients.

The companies that sell GMO seeds claim that growing their genetically modified crops is good for farmers. Yet it's those same companies--not the farmers--that benefit the most from GMO-based farming. Genetically modifying species like corn or soybeans allows the companies to patent seeds, which gives them greater control over what farmers are able to grow--and as a result, greater control over the food supply. And while the companies that sell GMO seeds to farmers insist that their products are safe for people, animals, and the environment, there is an active debate among scientists about whether or not there is sufficient data to support that conclusion. Since the government continues to rely on the industry to determine whether or not their products are safe, there is little objective research available on the topic.

The argument that GMOs are an improvement over natural seeds because they were produced by scientists is a convenient one. After all, most reasonable people agree that science has produced some astounding advances.

But genetically modified foods hold out promises that are at best untested, and at worst unrealistic. Traditional edible plants and animals have evolved alongside humans over thousands of years to provide the people who eat them with essential nourishment. In exchange for this, we have an obligation to those plants and animals to keep caring for them responsibly.

For most of our history, it's been a great deal for all involved. And we'd like to help keep it that way.