Photo of the day

From the Telegraph photos of the day gallery:

A burrowing owl taken by wildlife enthusiast Hisham Atallah while visiting Cape Coral, USA

A photograph of a burrowing owl taken by wildlife enthusiast Hisham Atallah while visiting Cape Coral in the USPicture: Mercury Press & Media Ltd

Chipotle, science, and corporate responsibility

I’m going to keep eating at Chippotle, even though they are now officially anti-science, and just feel conflicted about it.  Much like I keep eating industrially-produced, non-humanely raised meat and feel bad about it.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this Jesse Singal post on Chipotle’s new official anti-science stance:

In the most extreme cases, pronouncements that clash with the scientific consensus are met with angry Facebook posts and petitions and all the other accouterments of circa-2015 internet outrage. The questions are screamed in unison: How can these people ignore science? And how can they be so irresponsible as to encourage others to do the same?

And yet when the burrito giant Chipotle announced earlier this week that it will no longer be using any ingredients that contain or originate from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, there was barely a peep from the usual guardians of empiricism — despite the fact that more than 16 major international science organizations, including the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences, have concluded that there is no good reason to avoid consuming current GMOs. The burrito purveyor hasn’t suffered much backlash yet,but its new policy certainly represents the same sort of anti-science pandering that helps fuel the anti-vaccine and climate-change-denialism movements.  [emphasis mine]

Chipotle may argue that it’s simply giving its consumers what they want (I sent them an email via their contact form seeking comment on Monday and didn’t hear back), but that position only makes sense if one ignores the larger social context. In practice, the burrito giant’s “GMO-free” stance (explained here on its website — the chain notes that because of the ubiquity of GMOs in the U.S. food supply, customers who order soda or meat may still end up consuming GMO-sourced products) seems destined help cement false ideas about GMOs in the public imagination — most relevant, that they pose a health risk…

Part of the reason GMO hysteria arose in the first place is that most people barely know what GMOs are. Yoel Inbar, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who studies human judgement and decision-making, said consumers tend to perform just a bit better than a coin flip on simple true-false questions on the subject…

Most consumers aren’t going to carefully analyze the scientific consensus on a given issue — who has time for that? Rather, they use mental shortcuts, taking cues from people and institutions they trust. Chipotle has developed a reputation for corporate responsibility and making careful decisions about the ingredients on its menu, and Chipotle ditched GMOs — therefore, GMOs must be bad. Chipotle scores points, science loses. Surely other companies looking to capitalize off of a veneer of corporate do-goodery are keeping a close eye on this.

Yep.  Alas, Chipotle’s actions speak loudly.  What actual scientists who study and understand GMO’s are drowned out.  And if you think Republicans are crazy for denying climate change, but don’t want to eat GMO food out of health concerns, it’s definitely time to check your pro-science, evidence-based credentials.

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