Late last month, a woman filed a lawsuit against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., claiming that the restaurant’s marketing and advertising campaign stating its menu contains no GMOs is “deceptive and misleading to consumers because many of Chipotle’s menu items actually do contain GMOs.”
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Colleen Gallagher filed suit “on behalf of all California consumers” who purchased food products from Chipotle between April 27 and Aug. 28, 2015.
The suit alleged that Chipotle has marketed its Food with Integrity brand to consumers who are paying what the suit described as “premium prices” for food that does not align with the consumers’ values and eating choices.
There are two issues here that render Gallagher’s lawsuit totally moot. First, the backstory of this non-story.
As NBC News reported at the time, back in April the Denver-based restaurant chain launched a “G-M-Over it” campaign, highlighting the fact that Chipotle was the first national restaurant company to use only ingredients that are free of genetically modified organisms.
Here’s reason No. 1 why this suit should be thrown out of court.
In support of her contention that Chipotle was conducting false and misleading advertising, Gallagher cited the fact that Chipotle serves meat and dairy products from animals that are fed a ration comprised in part from soybeans and corn ingredients harvested from genetically engineered varieties. Additionally, she claimed that Chipotle serves soft drinks sweetened with corn syrup derived from genetically engineered corn.
One of Gallagher’s attorneys issued the usual lawyerly statement of fake outrage over the defendant’s alleged dishonesty.
“Restaurants know that consumers place a premium on food that is considered to be healthy or natural,” said Laurence D. King. “As a result, Chipotle’s advertising in its stores should have accurately informed customers about the source and quality of its ingredients and should not mislead consumers that they are serving food without GMOs, when in fact they are.”
Fact: There are no “GMOs” in meat or milk. GMOs are not “contained” in any food product. GMOs do not exist as some additive, a distinction that apparently escapes most reporters.
For example, this excerpt from TownHall.com is typical of the media coverage — and this story was supporting Chipotle!
“Despite Chipotle’s claim they don’t use GMOs in their food, the meat products served in the restaurant are fed with GMO food and the dairy products used by the chain come from cows that were fed GMOs.”
Are you serious? “The meat products are fed with GMO food” and “cows fed GMOs?” Meat products don’t eat, and GMOs are not something you dump into a feed bunk.
Hey reporters: “GMOs” don’t exist as an ingredient, idiots. Genetic modification a technology, not a substance.
Would anyone claim that some restaurant is “serving marination” to their customers after claiming they don’t add any water to their meats? C’mon. Get a clue, media people.
Point No. 2 why this lawsuit is moot is even simpler. Genetic engineering is safe. Therefore, animal food from livestock fed ingredients derived from genetically modified crops are harmless. Therefore, there is no harm done. Therefore, a lawsuit alleging damages is moot.
You can’t collect damages from somebody over an alleged wrongdoing when there is no damage done.
One final thought for all the misguided consumers out there who think that “non-GMO” means that they’re somehow eating pure and natural foods untouched by the hand of Big Ag, or whoever they imagine is contaminating the food supply.
Two words: Seedless watermelons.
You believe those came straight from Nature?
Think about that as you agonize over whether the beef in your Responsibly Raised Steak Burrito came from an animal fed with ingredients that came from a plant that was genetically modified to allow farmers to avoid spraying their crops with pesticide.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator