Chipotle Mexican Grill is an American fast food chain that has expanded globally and now has a total of sixteen restaurants in the UK, Canada, France and Germany. Their mission statement, Food with Integrity has always implied a natural approach to sourcing its ingredients.
However, recent claims that the restaurant has gone ‘GMO Free’ have raised eyebrows among conscientious foodies and have now led to court action too. Just how true are the promises that Chipotle have made to its customers? We are here to uncover the truth.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and refers to matters that have been artificially altered genetically in laboratories.
Through genetic engineering, scientists are able to create plant and animal combinations that do not occur naturally. Commonly modified food substances include corn, soy, beets and papaya. Other common suspects are rice, wheat, potato and flax. 
Are GMOs Dangerous?
There have been many studies that have shown the dangers of consumption of GMOs. Genes inserted into organisms that we then consume can result in damaging materials being left behind in our bodies. These can cause a variety of problems including chronic illnesses, food intolerances, digestion issues and autism, all of which have increased drastically since GMOs were first introduced back in 1996. 
Not only are GMOs harmful to us, the consumers, but they also have a devastating impact on the environment too. They pollute water sources, reduce the rich bio-diversity in our ecosystems and are not sustainable.  Genetic engineering of plants and animals creates dangerous side effects through unnatural gene mixing that can produce new toxins and carcinogens. GMOs do not exist in an isolated state, but spread and cross pollinate with other organisms. This means that we can never predict the impact that they will have on our world, and we are unable to reverse the contamination. 
What claims have Chipotle Made?
Given the damaging nature of GMOs, it is admirable that Chipotle are taking steps to combat the problem within their own organization. However, it is important to be sure that the claims they are making are put to the test. Let’s take a look at the claims made by Chipotle this year.
In April, Chipotle announced that it had become “the first national restaurant company to use only non-GMO ingredients”. 
Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold said that most of the GMOs found in Chipotle’s ingredients were in the soybean oil used for chips, tacos and the rub for grilled chicken.
GMO ingredients were also present in the tortillas produced by the restaurant. Arnold announced that the companies were making a huge transition so that GMOs in their plant based ingredients would no longer feature.  He was clear to establish that such a change would not be easy. The possible substitutes when it comes to hydrogenated oils are not ideal; lard is not suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets, and palm oil has a huge environmental impact. 
Do the Claims hold up?
Almost immediately, Chipotle received a backlash for its statement, with one filed complaint made by Californian resident Colleen Gallagher calling the claims “misleading, deceptive” and “unfair”. 
Chipotle, meanwhile, is determined to stick to its statements. The suppliers of their tortilla ingredients planted corn varieties that have not been genetically modified. They are now using non-GMO sunflower oil or rice bran oil instead of the hydrogenated oils they used previously.  This all sounds promising, but it is the other elements of the menu that are causing the problem now.
The allegations against Chipotle are made in light of the ingredients used in their beverages, which include syrup made from genetically modified corn crops.
Furthermore, there is great debate over the animal products being served. Meat and dairy ingredients on Chipotle’s menu come from animals that are being fed GMO grains.  Making blanket statements about a company’s practice is far more complicated than it appears on the surface. Suddenly every part of the processes is thoroughly scrutinized.
Where does the Progress Stop?
While transitioning to non-GMO soy and oils is a great step in right direction, this is where their transition ends. While the animals themselves are not genetically modified, the meat and dairy products served are still taken from sources where animals are fed GMO corn and soy.  In Chipotle’s defence, they make this clear on their website, stating that “most animal feed in the US is genetically modified”, and that the majority of the animals will have consumed at least some GMO foods. 
The confusion comes from differing opinions of the definition of ‘GMO foods’. If an animal consumes a GMO diet, is the meat GMO free? Standards for non-GMO foods are not agreed, and this makes it a difficult case.  However, what is much clearer cut are the beverages served at the restaurant. Many are made with GMO corn syrup. There is concern that this information is not clear enough to the consumer, who may assume that the company’s bold claim cover all produce served at Chipotle, rather than just the food.
What’s the Future for Chipotle?
It is clear that Chipotle is striving for positive change and it is certainly light years ahead of other fast food chains. However, with the changes in its menu only covering the plant based products, there is still a long way to go before you can comfortably dine at a completely GMO-free Chipotle. Chris Arnold maintains that the company is “always looking at ways to improve the food” served. 
It may be that greater changes need to take place first. With so many animals fed on a diet of GMO crops, there simply is not a large enough supply of meat from farms that maintain a GMO-free diet. Some of the beef on Chipotle’s menu is grass fed which is a great start.  We look forward to further improvement stemming from this promising start.
-  http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
-  http://responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/
-  https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/lawsuit-against-chipotle-non-gmo?utm_term=.cywmn4JgY5#.yaWLkvnDwR
-  http://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/2014/06/26/9-disappointing-facts-about-chipotle/
-  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/can-chipotle-ever-prove-its-gmo-free/
-  http://earth911.com/business-policy/chipotle-gmo/