As a mom to several Chipotle lovers, I confess to being a regular purchaser of more Chipotle burritos and burrito bowls than I would ever like to count. Those cool Chipotle gift cards have been a regular in our Christmas stockings for years now. I admit that despite the meals’ unreal calorie counts, I even enjoy this food myself. It is fresh, delicious and fairly, reasonably priced.
However, in my position at The Lugar Center, I work to promote ways for the 805 million people around the world who are chronically hungry to be able to feed themselves and their families. Some of these chronically hungry people live in conflict zones (think Syrian or Somali refugees); some are subsistence farmers. Both groups have no opportunity at all to choose a GMO-free Chipotle burrito or not. In our global food security work, we promote science – many kinds: soil testing, fertilizer, and yes, GMOs to name a few – as key components that farmers around the world need now and will need in 2050 when the world’s population is expected to surpass 9 billion.
Right now people in developing countries are wondering about GMOs. Farmers are hearing the exciting news that GMO seeds can improve the productivity of their crops with the need for less fertilizer and even in times of less rainfall. Regulators are considering whether they should approve the use of GMO seeds in their countries. Because of the long history of the United States leading the world in the science of agriculture, the opinion of Americans has an impact. That’s why Chipotle’s announcement was confusing and tough to take. Every time a company like Chipotle takes a position against the use of GMOs within our own country, despite evidence of its safety, there is a risk that the decision will raise more questions about whether GMOs should be further developed and provided as an option for farmers across the globe. After all, if the farmer doesn’t have a customer for his crop, how can he earn a living growing it?
The other reason I am so disappointed with Chipotle’s decision is the impact its position will have on millennials here at home. Although major editorial boards, including The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, appropriately took Chipotle to task for their junk science decision, did any millennials read these editorials? I don’t know, but I do know that my own millennial children do still want to eat Chipotle burritos. Sadly, as they and their peers are standing in line to place their orders, now they are seeing that junk science rules.
I hope that if you know a millennial, you will try to set the record straight with them. You can share with them the real science, conducted by real scientists, some of which we have included in our Resources for Researchers page on GE and in our FAQs. If you share these facts and succeed, maybe when millennials have kids of their own, not only will they base their consumer decisions on science over fear-mongering and pandering, but also maybe there will be enough food for them, as well as the rest of the 9 billion people across the globe. Maybe. And in the meantime, as for my millennials’ mom, I don’t need all those calories anyway.
Lori Groves Rowley serves as Director of Global Food Security and Aid Effectiveness at The Lugar Center.