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Chipotle Is Caught In The Messy Business Surrounding GMO Foods

If an animal eats GMO feed, should its meat get a GMO label?

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Popular burrito chain Chipotle boldly announced in late April that it was "the first national restaurant company to use only non-GMO ingredients" as part of of its "commitment to serving food made from the very best ingredients." But a new lawsuit in California is challenging this claim.

Colleen Gallagher of Piedmont, Calif. alleges that Chipotle's non-GMO advertising is "false, misleading, deceptive, unfair and unconscionable," according to the complaint, filed in in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Among the problems: the meat and dairy products Chipotle serves come from animals that consume genetically modified food, and it serves soft drinks that contain GMO ingredients.

"All of the ingredients we use to make our food are non-GMO," except for beverages, said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold in an email to BuzzFeed News. The company, he added, "will vigorously contest this meritless and unfair claim."

How can two parties come to completely opposite conclusions about the same products?

There's very little people agree on when it comes to genetically modified foods, which have been sold only since 1996. Most scientists believe GMOs are safe to eat, though more research is needed to determine the environmental effects of widespread GMO crops. Already, GMO-conscious consumers have spawned a sizable niche business.

For instance, sales of products certified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit advocating a non-GMO food supply that also runs a verification program, tripled last year to more than $8.5 billion, according to the New York Times.

As demand for non-GMO food spreads, state and federal lawmakers continue to debate how GMO food should be identified. The lawsuit against Chipotle reflects just how muddled the issue remains, particularly for meat.

Eric / Via Flickr: sirira2000

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