Chipotle finishes removing GMO ingredients from its food - KCTV5

Chipotle finishes removing GMO ingredients from its food

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Chipotle says it has completed phasing out genetically modified ingredients from its food. (Chipotle/Facebook) Chipotle says it has completed phasing out genetically modified ingredients from its food. (Chipotle/Facebook)
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV/AP) -

Chipotle says it has completed phasing out genetically modified ingredients from its food, making it the first national fast-food chain to do so.

The Denver-based chain had already been using mostly non-GMO ingredients, but was working on making final changes to its tortillas.

Not everyone is happy about the change. Bucyrus, KS farmer Nick Guetterman's grows two genetically modified crops: corn and soybeans.

He says Chipotle's decision is wrong.

"It's providing the consumer with a less quality product at a higher price," he said.

The Food and Drug Administration maintains that GMOs are safe, and the vast majority of the country's corn and soybean crops are genetically modified to have certain traits like resistance to herbicides and plant diseases.

In recent years, however, activists have been calling for regulations that require labeling for foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Many companies have responded to such concerns; Whole Foods has said all products in its stores that contain genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018.

Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells has said in the past that the company felt it was best not to use GMOs given the "lack of consensus" about their effects.

On its website Monday, Chipotle said it was "G-M-Over It." In a statement on Monday, Ellis said more research is needed "before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption." He said while the debate continues that his company decided to take what it feels is the best action for its customers.

But Guetterman said he and other farmers disagree. "I personally believe a non-GMO product typically has more pesticides, herbicides insecticides used on it. "It's probably more contaminated with pesticides than a GMO crop."

One Kansas City area customer supports Chipotle's choice. "I think it's a good idea." Cristian Marquez told KCTV5. "It's healthier and it's better for us."

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has around 1,800 locations, has enjoyed strong sales growth in part by playing up the quality of its ingredients and defining itself as a more wholesome alternative to traditional fast-food chains.

To rid its menu of GMO ingredients, Chipotle said its suppliers planted non-GMO corn varieties for its tortillas. It also replaced soybean oil with sunflower oil to cook its chips and taco shells, and with rice bran oil in other recipes. The new oils are made from crops for which there are no genetically modified varieties available for commercial use, the company noted.

It said the changes did not result in significantly higher costs and that it was not raising prices.

Going forward, the company said it was working on removing additives from its tortillas as well.

The announcement comes after Chipotle said in January it would stop serving pork in about a third of its restaurants after finding one of its suppliers violated its animal welfare standards. The company said it doesn't expect the pork shortage to be fully resolved until late this year.

Chipotle still serves Coca-Cola fountain drinks, which are made with high-fructose corn syrup. But this past summer, it started testing a root beer that is organically sweetened in Denver. That test is ongoing, said Chris Arnold, a company spokesman.

The completion of the phase-out was first reported by The New York Times and CNN.

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