The Power of the Consumer

Despite a barrage of criticism, Chipolte has now converted to a 100% GMO-free menu. It has been rewarded with an ever-increasing market share and a soaring stock price. The rapidly increasing market demand for GMO-free products is further evidence of the power of the consumer to change our food system.

The rest of the fast food world is taking note of course and nearly every day it seems there are new stories of menu changes designed to reflect the values of consumers who are increasingly looking not only at the price of their food, but also to the ethics behind its production. So fast-food companies are announcing that they will no longer sell pork from companies that keep sows in farrowing crates or chicken from companies that feed human-used antibiotics to their chickens to stimulate growth. They’re not doing this because they’re suddenly conscious-stricken about their practices. They’re doing it because they have concluded that elimination of some of the practices most objectionable to informed consumers will make their corporations more profitable.

The anti-GMO bandwagon, rolling along despite no assistance from the government and no government coercion, is threatening to bring dramatic change to the industry. As one widely-circulated article says:

For Monsanto and GMOs the situation suddenly looks ominous. Chipotle may well represent the beginnings of a market swing of historic proportions. GMOs may be relegated to cattle-feed status, or even oblivion, in the USA. And if GMOs fail in the US, they are likely to fail elsewhere.

I see GMO food as more of a symptom than a problem, but given that with very few exceptions GMO ingredients are only in unhealthy food that no one should eat, if GMOs should be brought down by consumer sentiment that would be fine by me.  More importantly, it would be confirmation of the power of consumers to defeat corporate food marketeers and government-sponsored market manipulation.

Thanks to activists and nonconformists in the food movement, the future of our food system looks much better today than it did a couple of years ago.