Before beginning this article, I’d like to let everyone know that I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t know if what is happening with Chipotle is sabotage or random chance, but I’d like to explore both possibilities. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when I heard there was an E. Coli outbreak at Chipotle. By the time it reached my region (the Mid-Atlantic), I felt that something was off, that it wasn’t just a coincidental outbreak. So I went out and had Chipotle for lunch. I had a suspicion that this outbreak wasn’t an unfortunate occurrence, and after diving into some research and information, I have to admit that I’m questioning the entire situation.
Cue Beastie Boys. You know you love this song.
Listen, I’m not one for conspiracy theories. I don’t think the government is planning to enslave us all. We did land on the moon, as far as I know. I don’t think Ebola was some sort of coordinated outbreak. Maybe I kinda believe in aliens, but that’s just from watching too many episodes of Ancient Aliens.
My point is, I’m not much for outlandish, outrageous theories. I’m not sure if this was a coincidence or if it was indeed an act of sabotage. My point in writing this is to shed some light on the situation and the reality that companies like Monsanto do participate in sketchy behavior and often attack people and organizations that threaten the GMO industry. Even with the outbreaks, I want to emphasize that Chipotle is a great company that deserves our support. I’m not saying that is definitely what happened, there’s no way for me to know. But I do intend to explore the potential.
The idea that Chipotle could’ve been targeted by the biotech industry is neither outlandish nor outrageous. Earlier this year, Chipotle announced they had removed all genetically modified organisms from their menu. In the weeks and months after, they were slammed by the media. The media backlash to this was so strong, you’d think they had just announced they were switching to child labor instead of non-GMO food. Despite the backlash, Chipotle saw increased sales and a soaring stock. By all means, this was a genius move for the company.
Because of this, Chipotle became a huge threat to the biotech industry. Let’s explore some other threats to the industry that were factually sabotaged and not nearly as large, influential or financially profitable as Chipotle.
Rachael Parent is a teenage non-GMO activist and the founder of Kids Right To Know. At just 14-years-old, Rachel would travel, give speeches and promote GMO labeling. In documents released in a freedom of information request by US Right to Know, it turns out that Monsanto had been working with University of Florida professor, Kevin Folta to target Rachel Parent with plans to discredit her, her work and her website. Kevin Folta has been described as a mouthpiece for Monsanto, and with emails like this, it’s not hard to see why:
“I’m glad to sign on to whatever you like, or write whatever you like….I’d be happy to write the op-ed on making decisions on facts,” Folta wrote in an email in October 2014 to Monsanto.
Further emails revealed that Folta was asked to take on “14-yr old GMO Labeling activist Rachel Parent.” Nine days after that email was sent, Folta released a video stating,
“So when I think about answering Rachel Parent, who’s the activist child – well, young woman – who’s running the website Kids Right to Know…The things I just adore about Rachel is that she’s clearly very articulate, clearly intelligent. The problem that I have is when Rachel starts to let non-scientific thinking really kind of cloud her final decision-making process.” (emphasis mine)
If Monsanto wasn’t threatened by her, why would they need to hire Kevin Folta to personally attack her? Folta went on to come up with a counter website to Rachel’s and it was released that Monsanto had granted him at least $25,000.
If they’re willing to attack and sabotage a teenage GMO activist – what makes anyone think they wouldn’t attack a multimillion-dollar non-GMO chain restaurant?
Dr. Oz is a prominent, outspoken doctor with his own TV show that reaches millions. After airing an episode that suggested Monsanto’s RoundUp weedkiller could potentially cause cancer, he found himself at the center of an attack. Ten physicians, ranging from institutions like Stanford to the University of North Carolina, wrote Columbia University urging them to fire Dr. Oz for promoting “quack” ideas and remedies.
The media jumped on this, loving the opportunity to attack a doctor who would dare to promote any type of natural remedy. What the media failed to do, as it so often does, is its homework. Had they done it, they would have immediately recognized the fact that these doctors had strong ties to the GMO industry.
Most prominent of the group, Dr. Miller, has long promoted genetically modified organisms and was even a part of the anti-GMO labeling campaign in California. Dr. Ross is the executive director of the American Council on Science and Health, an organization that regularly promotes the benefits and safety of GMOs. He was also convicted of Medicare fraud and spent time in federal prison.
The agrochemical industry used these doctors to run a smear campaign, to try to ruin a man’s career.
These are just two of thousands of incidences of Monsanto’s tactics. They sue small farmers. They defame scientists brave enough to publish their independent research (aka not funded by Monsanto). Other scientists lose their jobs for not falsifying their research. What aren’t these people willing to do?
Again, I’d like to reiterate that I am not a conspiracy theorist. But knowing this information and the lengths companies like Monsanto will go to silence its detractors…it does make me seriously question the outbreaks at Chipotle.
During most E. coli outbreaks, the source is quickly identified and dealt with. More often than not, several companies will be affected. This is because to supply food to a massive chain like Chipotle, they need to source from producers on a massive scale, and these producers sell to many restaurants and chains across the US. Oddly enough, only Chipotle has been affected by these outbreaks.
What many people fail to realize (and the media is doing a poor reporting on it), is that Chipotle hasn’t been affected by just one outbreak. Even more puzzling, there have been several, with different viral strains.
From Food Safety News,
Sickened: 5 people
Culprit: E. coli O157:H7
Simi Valley, CA
Sickened: At least 234
When: August and September
Sickened: 64 people
Culprit: Salmonella Newport
CA, IL, MD, MN, NY, OH, OR, PA, WA
When: Began Oct. 19
Sickened: 52 people
Culprit: E. coli O26
Sickened: At least 136 people
So in total, Chipotle has been affected by two different strains of E. Coli, salmonella, and two norovirus outbreaks in different parts of the country.
Even now, the sources of the outbreaks have not been identified. What has been identified is the type of outbreaks. The latest, the CDC has named a “different, rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.” This rare E. coli is not normally seen in foods. Chipotle performed hundreds of tests on their food and is still unable to identify the source.
My intention in writing this is to highlight the possibility that this could be more than just an unfortunate coincidence. I don’t know if it is a coordinated effort, but knowing the above information I provided, I wouldn’t be shocked. Unsurprisingly, Chipotle has taken a financial hit and their stock prices have gone down.
My main intention in writing this is to urge people to still support Chipotle. They are doing amazing things. They were bravely the first chain restaurant to go GMO-free, opening themselves up to ridicule and backlash. Now that these outbreaks have happened, they are being bashed by the media yet again. Articles like “Was Chipotle too busy avoiding the fake dangers of GMOs to focus on actual food safety?” As if tumors from GMO feed are fake.
The media is dragging them through the mud. I encourage all of you to continue to support Chipotle. They have a commitment to healthy, sustainable food in a time when junk food, pesticides, sugar, trans fat and processed foods rule the American diet. Grass-fed farmers are their providers. They try to buy locally and they don’t use GMOs – a huge feat in itself. They have also taken extra measures to ensure food safety,
“…we have partnered with Seattle-based IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, a preeminent food safety testing and consulting company. Led by company founder and CEO Dr. Mansour Samadpour, IEH is working directly with Chipotle’s Supply Chain and Operations departments to implement a set of industry-leading practices, including some changes to our previous protocols.”
You can read the full food safety changers here.
Keep in mind that Chipotle is still the healthiest fast food option. They have good intentions and are a great company. They’ve fallen on hard times but that is no reason to vilify them.