Today marks Chipotles first “GMO free” menu day. The burrito chain announced they will no longer prepare food containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

According to the New York Times:

“This is another step toward the visions we have of changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle. “Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors.”

Finally! A GMO-free burrito! Oh, do you have gluten-free tortillas? And can I get extra ice in my coconut water? – A hipster somewhere, probably.

So, yay! Chipotle, burgeoning champion of the GMO-free pander movement makes a bold stand. Sounds good, right? There’s just one little problem though…

Chipotle isn’t actually going 100% GMO-free.

Some of the meat and soft drinks they serve? Still chock-full of nasty, evil, ol’ GMOs. Chipotle’s website explains:

The meat and dairy products we buy come from animals that are not genetically modified. But it is important to note that most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed. We are working hard on this challenge, and have made substantial progress: for example, the 100% grass-fed beef served in many Chipotle restaurants was not fed GMO grain—or any grain, for that matter.

Many of the beverages sold in our restaurants contain genetically modified ingredients, including those containing corn syrup, which is almost always made from GMO corn.

Evidently, this falls outside the bounds of hypocrisy because of a semantical distinction. You see, Chipotle is preparing GMO-free food, though they are still serving food containing GMOs.

Oh, and there’s also the inconvenient detail that corn, a Chipotle staple, is one of the earliest examples of genetically modified food.

Tim Fernholz of Quartz made the corn as early GMO observation earlier today. He pointed to the following passage from Charles C. Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus:

[Maize] is like the one redheaded early riser in a family of dark-haired night owls. Left untended, other cereals are capable of propagating themselves. Because maize kernels are wrapped inside a tough husk, human beings must sow the species—it essentially cannot reproduce on its own. … No known wild ancestor, no obvious natural way to evolve a non-shattering variant, no way to propagate itself—little wonder that the Mexican National Museum of Culture claimed in a 1982 exhibition that maize “was not domesticated, but created”—almost from scratch.

…[Scientists] argue that modern maize was the outcome of a bold act of conscious biological manipulation—“arguably man’s first, and perhaps his greatest, feat of genetic engineering,” Nina V. Federoff, a geneticist at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in 2003. Federoff’s description, which appeared in Science, intrigued me. It makes twenty-first-century scientists sound like pikers, I said when I contacted her. “That’s right,” she said. “To get corn out of teosinte is so—you couldn’t get a grant to do that now, because it would sound so crazy.” She added, “Somebody who did that today would get a Nobel Prize! If their lab didn’t get shut down by Greenpeace, I mean.”

Chipotle claims, “all corn-based ingredients in Chipotle’s food that formerly may have been genetically modified have been removed or replaced with non-GMO versions,” but I suppose that depends on how they’re defining “genetically altered.”

Personally, I don’t care if tacos or burritos are dripping GMOs, so long as they’re tasty.

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