NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Chipotle Mexican Grill announced in late April that the nearly 50 ingredients used in all of its U.S. restaurants are now free of genetically modified organisms (GMO's).
The company said its tortillas are the only food items on its menu that include any artificial additives. But it is now actively developing new recipes for its tortillas, according to a news release.
New Brunswick's first and only Chipotle opened in 2009 at the intersection of George and Church Streets.
GMO supporters claim there are higher costs associated with producing foods that are not genetically engineered. Chipotle, however, said its move did not result in significantly higher ingredient costs, and it did not raise prices as a result of its move to non-GMO ingredients.
“GMO's, or genetically modified organisms, are crops that have had specific changes introduced to their DNA that don’t occur naturally, using the science of genetic engineering. GMO's are common in the American food system,” reads the release.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 94% of corn and 93% of soybeans grown in the U.S. came from GMO strains in 2014.
More than 80% of foods consumed in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients, making it difficult for consumers to avoid GMO ingredients used in restaurants or in food from grocery stores.
Organic foods do not contain GMO's, and a movement against the modified foods has been building support in recent years. In 2013, more than 500 people took to the streets in New Brunswick to protest Monsanto, a Missouri-based company that is the largest producer of genetically modified seeds.
“There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods,” Chipotle founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells said in a statement.
“Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption.”
Ells noted that, while the debate continues, the company decided to switch to non-GMO ingredients. Chipotle said its ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen chain also eliminated GMO ingredients from its menu.