July 09, 2015 | Arlette Sambs

Burrito With A Side Of Pseudoscience

Why such disconnect between scientific thinking and popular belief on GMOs

Burrito With A Side Of Pseudoscience
Restaurants are in the business of providing foods that people like to eat. And people certainly should have a wide range of options and choices for meals.  Still, I can’t help but think the recent decision by Chipotle to move away from using genetically modified organisms is more marketing than science.  
In interviews, Chipotle executives said the company is avoiding GMOs because they’re skeptical of current research. Its CEO was quoted as saying,“I think we all know we’d rather have food that doesn’t contain them.” 
With 320 million people in the U.S., if “we’d all rather have food that doesn’t contain them,” wouldn’t there be a loud, constant uproar? GMO products are probably in every meal we eat. Plus, if Chipotle wants to completely eliminate GMOs, as others have noted, they’ll need to do away with corn syrup in soft drinks and find a source for poultry, pork and beef raised on non-GMO feed. Tall order. Expensive, too, I think. 
In the feed and grain industry, we can tell the very positive story about how our country enjoys a steady supply of safe, inexpensive food. Maybe that’s difficult for people to accept. In a Pew Research study released early this year, 57% of the general public said genetically modified foods are “generally unsafe” to eat, while 88% of scientists said they were generally safe. 
Years ago, I heard a radio talk show host rant about BST in milk and how awful it was to push that unsafe product on an unsuspecting public. That same morning he did a similar rant on how awful it was that girls of child-bearing age didn’t have free access to a birth control implant.  A hormone-releasing device implanted in an arm, obviously, must be safer than what you would ingest if you drink milk from a cow given BST.  
Outside of any social aspects, it seemed to me to be a very odd stance to take about science. Yet it may reflect the attitude of most consumers.
I’m not a scientist. I do believe in the value of research and long-term studies. And I appreciate having safe, inexpensive sources of food. If Chipotle is correct and sourcing non-GMO ingredients ends up raising costs and prices, it will be interesting to see if more customers flock through its doors and if more restaurants follow its lead. If science continues to show that GMO products are safe, then as an industry, we have a quite a job ahead of us in education and communication!

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