Are Chipotle’s ‘GMO-Free’ Claims Deceptive?

Response Magazine

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. claims to be the first national restaurant company to disclose the so-called genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients in its food, and the first to cook only with non-GMO ingredients. According to Chipotle on its website, GMO is created by inserting genes from one species into the DNA of another, which can result in a plant with characteristics that would not occur naturally, such as producing pesticides or the ability to withstand high doses of chemical herbicides. Chipotle removed GMO ingredients because, according to it: scientists are still studying the long-term implications of GMO; the cultivation of GMOs can damage the environment; and Chipotle should be a place where people can eat food made with non-GMO ingredients.

After dining at a Chipotle restaurant, Colleen Gallagher filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in California, alleging that Chipotle made deceptive representations that all of its food products contained non-GMO ingredients and that Chipotle had failed to disclose that its customers were consuming products with GMO ingredients. The primary evidence in a false advertising case is the advertising itself. To that end, the plaintiff alleged that Chipotle made the following specific GMO claims: it prepares its food using only non-GMO ingredients; all of its food is non-GMO; and when it comes to Chipotle’s food, genetically modified ingredients “don’t make the cut.”

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“Are Chipotle’s ‘GMO-Free’ Claims Deceptive?” by Jeffrey Richter and Arthur Yoon was published in the DRMA Voice, a property of Response Magazine, on May 10, 2016. Reprinted in part with permission.