Marching against Chipotle’s GMO myths

posted in: Commentary | 6
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Karl and Frank stake out their territory at the dandelion fountain at Loring Park in Minneapolis.

Today, Chipotle Mexican Grill is putting on a show in Minneapolis. Their Cultivate Festival is a public relations event that combines food, drink, music, chefs, and myths served with a side of fear, I mean guac. Attendees can choose to walk through four information booths with the promise of a free burrito at the end, which sounds great except these booths contain carefully crafted and misleading invectives against food, farming, and science. In response, the March Against Myths (MAMyths), a grassroots movement whose mission is to combat myths with facts, penned an open letter to Chipotle to ask them to correct the false and misleading statements they make about genetically engineered crops (GMOs), which was received, acknowledged, and ignored. Today, MAMyths is coming to the Chipotle Cultivate Festival to correct the misinformation and be a resource for the public to learn more about GMOs. Today, we’re marching against Chipotle’s GMO Myths.

The March Against Myths began as an idea half a year ago, and counter-protested the March Against Monsanto in cities around the world. With now over 7,500 followers on Facebook, we’re setting our sights to bigger targets. Chipotle announced earlier this year that they were ditching GMOs for good. That’s just fine, except it isn’t actually true, and they paired this announcement with dialing up the fearmongering to try to convince the public that their food is now safer or better for the environment because of this change, and then raised their prices. Cashing in on myths and fear, to a scientist like me, reeks of unethical intentions. And the media wasn’t buying it.

Chipotle serves GMOs in its restaurant – and they always have. But take a look at their “GMO Experience” booth from their Cultivate Festival, and you will see them argue that GMOs are risky to eat, risky to grow, and make an argument for labeling based on these reasons. What they are not telling you is that there is a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat, GMOs have provided positive benefits for the environment, and they are actively trying to hide mention of what GMOs they still sell in their restaurant: sodas made from corn syrup derived from GMO corn, cheese made with genetically engineered enzymes, and milk and meat from animals fed GMOs. Moreover, MAMyths has obtained documents from Chipotle wherein they claim that genetically engineered FPC rennet is non-GMO, and they have also confirmed that the sunflowers that produce their cooking oil are herbicide-tolerant sunflowers which have the same – or worse – weed resistance issues as they say is the reason why they switched away from GMOs.

Chipotle asks people to vote on how scared of GMOs they managed to make them at the festival.
Chipotle asks people to vote on how scared of GMOs they managed to make them at the festival.

Not to mention – what does it mean when a company claims that they “don’t know” if the food they are serving is safe to eat, yet continue to sell it? Something is not adding up here – and the people need to know about it.

That’s where we come in. MAMyths will be civilly and politely handing out information to willing festival-goers so they can learn more about these myths that they’re being sold for 1/4 of a burrito. We will also make ourselves available to answer questions about the science. It is time that people held corporations that try to manipulate with falsehoods and fear accountable. After all, if Chipotle’s laudable goal is to provide “Food with Integrity” then they should welcome our constructive criticisms and open a dialog with us. If they continue to ignore the science and malign a safe and beneficial technology for short-term gains, our movement will only get louder. If they want to correct their mistakes and put a side of scientific accuracy in their tortillas, what better place to start than in Loring Park?

I’ll be there waiting.

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Chipotle – come here and let’s talk science!
Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.

  • RobertWager

    Awesome.

  • mem_somerville

    come here and let’s talk science!

    Ooh–it gives me chills! Looking forward to hearing about how this went.

    • Karl Haro von Mogel

      What a day! We talked science alright, and got in contact with the people at Chipotle who we want to talk to. More to come!

  • Mary M.

    This is just so great! Can’t wait to hear all about your day!

    • Karl Haro von Mogel

      My feet are aching to tell you all about it! 🙂

  • Goody FANFan

    March Against Myths is doing great work!