In the battle for our health, GMOs have become public enemy number one. Such modified foods have been shown to "cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters." And while extensive human trials have not been able to conclusively prove that GMOs have all of these effects (possibly because some of these findings remain unknown, as these companies keep such information secret), it would be a pretty safe bet to say that GMOs should be avoided when possible. Luckily, one fast-food chain is responding to its customers' concerns and removing GMOs from its products, all without a single law or regulation forcing them to do so.
Many in the organic movement believe that humans have a "right to know" what is in their food. However, in late 2012, Monsanto swindled Californians out of achieving the dream of a GMO label mandate by crushing Prop 37 to the tune of over $46 million in campaign donations (Monsanto, by giving $8 million in contributions, contributed over 17% of this total).
Down but not out, the labeling mandate movement bounced back from such a loss through passing labeling legislation in both Maine and Connecticut, and states such as New York and Vermont have bills in the works.
While I believe that opportunities for such regulation are ripe for abuse by rent-seekers and special interests, I don't particularly mind bills such as these. Nevertheless, as usual when we rely on the state to solve our problems, we completely neglect our own power as participants in an open market, and more importantly we forget about the responsibilities that companies have to satisfy our demands. They will respond if we show either our support or dissatisfaction through responsible consumerism. And in the case of GMOs, Chipotle has responded.
Chipotle recently commented that not only have they begun labeling which of their products contain GMO ingredients on their website, but also that they are in the process of completely eliminating GMOs from their restaurants altogether. I am hesitant to say that they are the first restaurant to do this, but I will say to the best of my knowledge that they are the first fast food chain to do so.
Many of their products are already GMO-free and their main challenge remains replacing their soybean oil with the healthier alternative rice bran oil, a transition that has already occurred in certain markets such as New York.
Chipotle can do this because they know their customers will reward them. It's common sense, really. There has been a massive backlash against GMO use going on for years now (rightly so), and Chipotle is doing their best to disassociate themselves with such a dirty and distasteful practice.
The point is, when it comes down to issues as personal as what we put in our bodies, we need to realize the inherent power that we have in this free-market system and hold businesses accountable for their actions.
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