Mexican chain restaurant Chipotle has frequently found itself under fire from pro-GMO (genetically-modified organisms) groups for several years now, due to their professed anti-GMO stance. As reported by Gizmodo, Chipotle announced two years ago that it would be removing all GMOs from its menu – a position that Gizmodo described as “Anti-Science Pandering.”
Earlier this week, Americans For Science, a pro-GMO, pro-vaccine podcast hosted by Steve Neidenbach, found the perfect way to fire back.
Neidenbach, a middle-school teacher from Annapolis, MD, has become a notable figure in the pro-GMO camp. He runs the Facebook page “We Love GMOs And Vaccines,” which has over 113,000 followers. He also writes for the Genetic Literacy Project.
Chipotle maintains a list on their websites of reasons they chose to remove GMO foods on their website, of which Neidenbach wrote a detraction on Medium. One of those reasons is that “The World Health Organization recently designated Glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The use of glyphosate is extremely widespread.”
That’s true: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC,) a division of the WHO, has classified glyphosate as a level 2A carcinogen – meaning that it’s “probably carcinogenic” – and it’s biotech company Monsanto’s flagship herbicide. Marketed under the trade name “Roundup,” Monsanto also sells “Roundup-ready” GMO crops which are designed to resist the negative effects of glyphosate. And as Neidenbach points out, anti-GMO groups were ecstatic.
“The anti-biotechnology movement jumped for joy when International Agency for Research on Cancer, one part of the World Health Organization, announced that glyphosate would be ranked as a level 2A carcinogen.”
But there are a few things that Chipotle doesn’t mention, and that the WHO isn’t too forthcoming about, either.
First, trace exposure to glyphosate through diet is extremely low; evidence that it is a carcinogen presumes exposure to large amounts. Around 360ml of glyphosate is sprayed per acre of crops (roughly a can of soda) and most of it is run off or broken down; cooking breaks it down further.
More importantly, glyphosate shares that class 2A carcinogen distinction with a number of other things, including shift work, being a hairdresser, and – importantly – very hot beverages, high-temperature frying, and red meat.
When Neidenbach realized this, he started a change.org petition directed at Chipotle founder, CEO and chairman Steve Ells, demanding that in keeping with the reasons behind their anti-GMO policy, they remove red meat from their menus and stop frying foods in oils which come from non-GMO, but mutagenic sunflowers.
“Just as GMOs were removed from most of their menu items because glyphosate is a class 2A carcinogen, pork and beef now need to be removed as well. Given the concerns surrounding red meat, and the herbicide tolerant mutagenic sun flowers used to cook it in, we feel it is particularly important to seek out alternative ingredients.”
Theoretically, to completely avoid anything that the WHO has classed a level 2A carcinogen, Chipotle would actually need to stop deep-frying completely and also remove coffee and tea from their menus – although coffee itself has been downgraded to class 3. Is it more carcinogenic when it’s very hot? Perhaps more to the point, they might also want to stop serving substances which the IARC has classified as “definitely carcinogenic.”
That would include alcoholic beverages, something ranked as a Group 1 carcinogen alongside such substances as arsenic and plutonium.
“Chipotle seems to truly believe that… anything ranked as a probable carcinogen by the IARC in food production should be avoided,” says Neidenbach.
“Any customer who agrees with Chipotle should clearly not be eating at Chipotle where all of those things still occur.”
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]