Chipotle labels its GMO ingredients

Its burritos are loaded with genetically modified products, but at least the chain is letting customers know that.

By Jason Notte Jun 20, 2013 9:19AM
File photo of Chipotle Mexican Grill in Beverly Hills, Calif. (© GUS RUELAS/Newscom/RTR)A vote in California couldn't do it, Whole Foods (WFM) is trying to do it by 2018 and Unilever (UL)-owned Ben & Jerry's is struggling to do it. Yet Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) has apparently succeeded in labeling foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The information is buried within the depths of Chipotle's website, and it isn't going to come as very good news to folks looking to avoid GMOs altogether. Half of the ingredients listed are marked with the dreaded scarlet "G," including all of the chain's rice and tortillas. For a company built on a bedrock of burritos, that doesn't do wonders for its image as a healthy alternative to the fast-food giants.

That "G" is also stamped on all meat except its pork carnitas, which means the only way to have a GMO-free meal at Chipotle is to have a salad or a big ol' bowl of pork.

The company has been lobbying for GMO labeling for some time, but it hasn't been able to eliminate them as ingredients, thanks to the scarcity of GMO-free soybeans and corn.

Those GMO-laden soybeans make up the soybean oil used to fry up the chain's barbacoa, chicken, fajita vegetables and fajita vegetables. It's almost unavoidable because even switching to sunflower oil would run the chain afoul of GMO.

Yet for Chipotle, this is a huge step toward transparency about its ingredients and one that rival chains like Panera Bread (PNRA) and especially fast-food companies like McDonald's (MCD), Burger King (BK) and Yum Brands (YUM) have refused to take. Granted, Chipotle hasn't exactly included this information on the signs at its shops, but just having it available comes as great comfort to consumers increasingly concerned about what's on their plate and how it got there.

That concern has been heightened recently with the discovery of GMO-laden wheat in the Pacific Northwest. That has rocked the U.S. wheat industry and caused serious repercussions in countries that import U.S. wheat. A new labeling process being imposed on meat, meanwhile, has industry lobbyists worried about similar international blowback.

Faced with the choice of losing a few customers by admitting the truth or gaining customers by just hoping they wouldn't find out about GMO in its food, Chipotle opted for the latter. The ensuing reaction may dictate just how many of its restaurant peers take the same step.

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Jun 20, 2013 1:08PM
I guess I'm just not up on the GMO research..why the big fuss?  I thought the aim was to make crops more drought resistant or more insect resistant?  Basically to raise enough food to feed the world's population.  So, I'm open to more information on this.
Jun 20, 2013 10:24AM

I can't wait to have a genetically modified burrito with my papi later tonight :)


I like that Chipotle is labeling GMOs and it is more proof we don't need a government mandate.


Non-GMO producers already have a financial incentive to label their non-GMO products as such. And now Chipotle believe it can profit from voluntary GMO labeling. Great!

Jun 20, 2013 9:58AM
Weather there food is GMO or not, it has a very good taste and I enjoy it fully without any subconscious of guilt of eating it. I rather eat Chipotle over many of the other chain companies like Burger King, Panera or McDonald. I appreciate them disclosing this information but this does will not stop me from eating there food.
Jun 20, 2013 1:35PM

All part of the guinea piglet research. Just glad to be a part of the on going study.

What harm can GMO possibly do to the human race?  Does anyone know?  No.

All I really know is that humanity made it this far without it and GMOs probably won't

be better than non-GMOs but we're certainly going to find out in the next two or three

generations.  So Enjoy!  Soon you won't have an option.

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