Chipotle Mexican Grill announced today that the 46 ingredients used in its roughly 1,800 U.S. restaurants are now free of genetically modified organisms, becoming the first major U.S. restaurant chain to make that switch.
Diners, particularly those in the sought-after young millennial generation, are seeking fresh foods that are less processed and more natural or organic. Part of that trend includes GMO-free foods.
GMO advocates have warned that producing foods that are not genetically engineered would increase costs. Chipotle, however, said its move did not result in significantly higher ingredient costs, and it did not raise prices as a result of going GMO-free.
Some of the most popular U.S. GMO crops are corn, soybeans and canola, which are staple ingredients in virtually every type of prepared and packaged food, from soup and tofu to breakfast cereals and chips.
Scientists have spliced the DNA of those GMO crops with that from different species. The aim, among other things, is to make them resistant to pests or more tolerant to drought.
Organic foods do not contain GMOs.
While proponents and critics disagree over the safety, environmental impacts and effectiveness of genetically engineered crops, a consumer backlash against them already has led General Mills Inc to remove GMOs from its original Cheerios. And Whole Foods has said all products in its stores that contain genetically modified ingredient will be labeled as such by 2018.
"Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it's clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption," Chipotle founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells said in a statement.
"While that debate continues, we decided to move to non-GMO ingredients."
The company plans to go GMO-free in its Canadian locations but at present there are no specific timelines.
Source: Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
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