By: Corrie Lingenfelter
In an industry breakthrough, Chipotle has announced they have removed one of the things that consumers want least in their food: GMO’s. The fast food chained announced April 27, 2015 that it is the first national restaurant chain to use only non-GMO ingredients. Co- CEO Steve Ells states,” the Denver- based chain has hit the goal not only at Chipotle Mexican Grills but also at the company’s ShopHouse Southeast Asia Kitchen locations.” he adds by saying, “There’s a lot of debate about genetically modified foods. Though many countries have already banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear a lot of research is still needed. We decided to move on non-GMO ingredients.”
This move is not surprising for the food industry.Food makers and restaurant chains want to remove ingredients that younger consumers do not want in their food or beverages. We have seen Pepsi Co announce that they would be removing aspartame from the diet Pepsi and also McDonald’s announcing that over the next two years it will stop using chicken treated with antibiotics commonly used for humans.Not only is this a trend on the macro level of things but also on a micro level in our own communities. We locally see different trends and lifestyle choices being incorporated in restaurants in our very own region.
In Pennsylvania located in the sweetest place on earth -or what others refer to as the town of Hersey sits a restaurant called Harvest. Inspired by local and regional ingredients, Harvest offers a fresh take on American cuisine perfect for the whole family. The menu features fresh seasonal fare and a variety of beverages including micro-brews, cocktails, and an American wine list.It is run by Sous Chef Timothy S Cook. I got the pleasure of sitting down with him to discuss some of the issues and myths in the food business about GMO’s and their rise to food fame.
Chef Cook finds that this GMO discussion has somewhat been blown out of proportion. “It’s all about education.” he states, ” There are foods that have been able to be taken from one area and been able to be grown in another cause of a change. Some farmers believe things like being able to grow products in areas where it was too cold or not enough rain fall or ones that can fight off diseases that would have ruined entire crops can save the farming industry. Some do not the see it as destroying what is natural.” Cook goes onto say, “I feel that every case is different. Like pumping antibiotics in poultry it started out in the 1940’s and it was for a good cause then it got out of hand in the 90’s. its all about education and knowing what we want to put in our bodies.”
Our conversation goes on with the biggest culprit of GMO’s and that is Monsanto. Anyone who knows anything about food or GMO’s knows that Monsanto is the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds on the planet. Accounting for over 90% of the GE seeds planted globally in 2003. Monsanto introduced a genetically modified product (Roundup Ready Soybeans) that were resistant to Roundup. The first crops introduced were soybeans, followed by corn in 1998. “Roundup Ready” crops greatly improved a farmer’s ability to control weeds, since glyphosate could be sprayed in the fields without harming their crops. Some chefs do refer to Monsanto as the worst corporation in human history. Chef Cook’s opinion is that, ” Monsanto is a large organization with a lot of companies underneath it. So as you can imagine some parts are good and some parts are not so good. its a debate like i said before is about education. i know some local farmers that hate the company. but there are other farmers that think its saving the everyday farmer.” Dennis Wilson, an environmental science professor at Harrisburg Area Community College surprisingly agreed. ” See sometimes we as scientists are assumed to automatically be in agreement to the GMO thing. That is not always the case for most of us. I personally feel that there needs to be more research first before presenting society with some of these products. Monsanto is a business and like any business they are out to make a profit any way possible.” He goes on to say, ” There haven’t been research that says GMO’s are harmful, but like I said there also hasn’t been enough research to show the long term effects of GMO’s in our products either. Society needs to focus on the different things we are putting in our body. America is very overweight and its caused by the amounts of processed foods we intake and not looking at what is going into our bodies through certain foods.”
This lead us into the conversation of local foods and it’s benefits to society. At Harvest Chef Cook works very hard to bring in as much local food as i can.”If i can buy from a local farmer I’m getting the freshest ingredients and my money is going right back to my community. There is proof that eating local vegetables while pregnant and/or young can reduce the risk of allergies. It is not just a thing “farm to table” its a whole change of culture when done right. The carrots i bring in from Lancaster cost me almost 3 times the amount then California. So i can bring this in and not pass all the cost off on the consumers. It was very eye opening to head from these two knowledgeable people on just how much we don’t educate ourselves before going with the latest trend. Chef Cook leaves us with this thought, “Its your responsibility to know what’s going in your bodies. Some people don’t take pain relievers, don’t eat anything but organic or free range, and some people need a quick cheap meal and stop at McDonald’s. None of these things will kill you its just about moderation.” I end this piece with expressing again how important it is for our society to explore the different food lifestyles out here and to educate yourself thoroughly on the effects good or bad it will have on your total health.