Chipotle Restaurants have earned billions of dollars by making indulgence seem wholesome. As marketing materials repeat, your Chipotle meal consists of “real, whole foods.” If its centerpiece, a barbacoa burrito with rice, sour cream and guacamole, contains 995 calories and 53 grams of fat – well, that’s the customer’s choice. The pork comes from free-range pigs!

Chipotle’s latest marketing campaign, however, takes righteous chowing-down to a troubling new level. On Monday, the chain announced that its entire menu is GMO-free – meaning it contains no ingredients derived from genetically modified plants or animals.

Thus has a leading food company endorsed a propaganda campaign that is not only contrary to the best scientific knowledge but also potentially harmful to vulnerable populations worldwide.

Men and women have been cross-breeding – genetically modifying – plants and animals for centuries. Modern molecular biology, however, enables them to do it with unprecedented effectiveness; a single gene inserted into a naturally occurring sequence can render, say, a variety of eggplant impervious to pests. The promise of GMOs, already widely used in the U.S., is that farmers in the developing world can use them, too, and thus feed their hungry populations at far lower cost than ever before.

Disaster scenarios vary. Chipotle, in a news release, asserts that it’s holding out for “a consensus on the long-term implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption.” No matter that GMO-derived foods have been widely consumed for years and that a 2014 World Resources Institute report, while calling for continuing safety research, concluded, “There is no evidence that GM crops have actually harmed human health.”

Other American corporations have jumped on the same bandwagon. No one should confuse any of these companies’ behavior with corporate responsibility. That would require companies to push back against the orchestrated fear of GMOs instead of validating it.

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