Chipotle and GMOs

Last week I mentioned Chipotle's decision to go semi-non-GMO when discussing consumer sovereignty vs. scientific integrity.  

I've been astounded at the voluminous, and nearly unanimous, backlash against Chipotle's decision in the media.   The criticism has ranged from discussions on:

  • The inconsistency of Chipotle's position.  They're getting rid of GMOs in some foods but not others (particularly soda and in all likelihood the feed used for the animals).
  • The hypocrisy of claiming to look out for customer's health while selling 1,600 calorie burritos.
  • Ignoring evidence on relative risk of herbicides.  One of Chipotle's stated reasons for moving away from soybean oil toward sunflower oil is that that most soybeans use biotech varieties that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which Chipotle implies is problematic.  However, as many commentators have pointed out the herbicides used on sunflowers are likely more toxic and are equally connected (if not more now that glyphosate is off patent) to "big agribusiness".
  • And, generally stoking fear when the scientific evidence suggest there is none.  That is, they've been roundly criticized for being anti-science. 

Amazingly, I haven't seen one story in a major media outlet that has applauded Chipotle's move. Mary Mangan, aka @mem_somerville, has compiled a list of stories that have appeared on the issue.  Negative stories or editorials have been run in the New York MagazineWall Street Journal, Slate, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Washington Post, and many others.  

I'm not sure what these developments imply for the politics surrounding GMO labeling (an issue which appears to be gaining a bit more traction in the US House of Representatives), but I'm almost certain this wasn't the outcome Chipotle was expecting.  You might be able to pick up a bit of market share in the short run by stoking fear and paranoia, but when science isn't on your side, it's bound to catch up with you in the long run.