Chipotle to Become the First GMO-Free Restaurant?

Earlier this year, Chipotle entered the debate about genetically modified food (GMO) by becoming the first company in the U.S. to post labels on its Web site showing which of its menu items contained GMO ingredients.

Now, the chain taking steps to remove all GMO ingredients from its menu. For starters, Chipotle has begun to substitute non-GMO sunflower oil for the soybean oil the chain fries its chips, chicken and vegetables in. Unlike soybeans, sunflowers have not yet been genetically modified.

“We’re also testing a non-GMO rice oil in New York,” Chipotle director of communications Chris Arnold told the New York Daily News. “We are working on the things that are within our control.”

It remains to be seen how Chipotle will tackle certain challenges, like purchasing GMO-free meat for stories that stretch across the country, since a large percentage of animals in the U.S. are fed corn grown from GMO seeds.

Then there's the question of serving Coke, which contains high fructose corn syrup made with GMO corn.

“We don’t have a timeline to become GMO-free, but it is something that is very much in our crosshairs," Arnold said.

In addition to the move to free their menu of GMOs, Chipotle threw its support behind California’s proposition 37, a defeated 2012 voter initiative that would have mandated that genetically engineered foods be labeled. While the USDA approved a voluntary labeling system for some GMO foods, the industry remains staunchly opposed to labels.

GMO labeling supporters plan to hold a rally on Tuesday ahead of a hearing on a New York law that would require all GMO foods carry labels.

“The vast majority of New Yorkers, and all Americans for that matter, would like to know whether the food they eat contains GMOs," the bill's sponsor, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, told the Daily News in an email. "I am confident that after a comprehensive public airing, where both sides have an opportunity to provide testimony, the case for labeling of GMO-containing food products will be categorically made.”

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