The recent decision by Whole Foods Market to label all genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) sold in its stores by the long-off date of 2018 looks silly and almost meaningless compared to the right-now policy of fresh food chain Chipotle, which is officially the first and only major U.S. food supplier to voluntarily label GMOs. On its “Ingredients Statement” website, Chipotle clearly outlines which of its food products contain GMOs, and also states that it is working aggressively to source completely non-GMO ingredients for all of its products as it moves forward.
Chipotle has always marketed itself as a healthy alternative to fast food, having taken steps from the beginning to eliminate things like dairy products produced using the artificial growth hormone rBST, for instance, and replacing them with pasture-raised dairy products. Chipotle has also played a key role in propelling forward the local agriculture movement by sourcing as many locally-grown and organic ingredients as possible, and eliminating artificial additives and other toxins commonly used in fast food.
But now Chipotle has set the bar even higher, and by choice, delineating each and every ingredient used in its meats, beans, rice, and dressings, and clarifying which ones contain GMOs. The primary GMO offender, as you will notice on Chipotle’s “Ingredients Statement” page, is soybean oil, which is reluctantly used in several of the chain’s meat and rice products. In fact, this commercial frying and cooking oil appears to be one of the only, if not the only, GMO ingredient still used by Chipotle.
“Our goal is to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients, and we’re working hard to meet this challenge,” explains the page. “For example, we recently switched our fryers from soybean oil to sunflower oil. Soybean oil is almost always made from genetically modified soybeans, while there is no commercially available GMO sunflower oil. Where our food contains currently unavoidable GM ingredients, it is only in the form of corn or soy.”
You can view the Chipotle “Ingredients Statement” page at the following link. Note that all items containing a “G” in the pink box contain GMOs: http://www.chipotle.com
Whole Foods’ track record on GMOs an embarrassment to the health freedom movement
While much of what Chipotle sells still admittedly contains GMOs in the form of corn and soybean oil, the company’s willingness to be forthcoming with its customers and the public about this fact is highly commendable. And it is a lot more than we can say for Whole Foods Market, which is still not being completely honest with its customers. The fact that Chipotle is already voluntarily labeling GMOs, and clearly indicating its intent to continue phasing them out right now, shows that Whole Foods’ 2018 labeling deadline is more of a political move to save face than a practical move to actually get the job done.
Other health food retailers like Trader Joe’s have already phased GMOs out of their private label brands (http://www.traderjoes.com/about/customer-updates-responses.asp?i=4), while health food stores like Natural Grocers source only organic produce and require that their packaged food suppliers fully disclose the source of any potential GMO ingredients. Natural Grocers even states directly on its website that, as a company, it does not consider GMOs to be at all safe for human consumption (http://www.naturalgrocers.com).
But Whole Foods, despite being a prominent leader in health food industry, has long taken the most ambiguous stance on GMOs. Besides its recent GMO labeling announcement and adoption of Non-GMO Project labeling back in 2009, both of which are commendable in their own rite, Whole Foods has not been nearly as forthcoming with its customers about GMOs, and yet continues to charge a premium for its products. While eventual labeling in 2018 may still be a positive step forward, it clearly lacks the proactive approach already being taken by companies like Chipotle.
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By Jonathan Benson