Chipotle nixes all GMO ingredients as consumers trend toward natural

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Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Monday its menu is free of all genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients, making it the first national restaurant company to do so.

"There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods," co-CEO of Chipotle Steve Ells said, according to USA Today. "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. While that debate continues, we decided to move on non-GMO ingredients."

In 2013, Chipotle became the first national chain to indicate which ingredients contained GMOs, prompting a growing number of restaurants and grocery stores around the country to do the same, the New York Times reports.

More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, and 80 percent of the food Americans consume contains GMOs, reports note.

GMO ingredients – plants or animals that have altered DNR to get a desired trait, such as disease resistance – have been a hot topic in recent years, with 43 percent of consumers saying GMO-free foods are "very important" to them, according to a Nielsen study.

Some argue GMO foods are unhealthy or may have negative effects, while others say GMOs are needed to make stronger crops, Yahoo says. The Food and Drug Administration has not taken an official stance on the topic.

This move comes as many other restaurants and food producers nationwide are making announcements to please the GMO-conscience individual, USA Today and the New York Times note, including Pepsi dropping aspartame and McDonald's moving toward using chicken that isn't treated with antibiotics.

Chipotle has dozens of locations in Minnesota, and held the Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Minneapolis last summer, which it plans to do again this year.

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