GMOs: Yes or no? Local restaurants seek to meet demand for non-GMO foods

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Krista L. White

On April 27, Chipotle Mexican Grill became the first national restaurant chain to ban genetically modified ingredients from its menu. But while the company has made headlines across the U.S. for its bold stance against the industry’s claim that all food is created equal, many Asheville restaurants have been waging a much quieter war of their own for years.

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Truth in advertising

According to the U.S. Healthful Food Council, the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant roughly six times a week, says Dr. Angela Hind, an Asheville physician and pure food consultant who founded You, M.D.

“When you are served a beautiful meal in a restaurant, you don’t know what’s in it, and it’s very easy just to ignore that,” she points out. “That transparency is just not there like it is when you visit the grocery or when you’re at home cooking for yourself and know what you’re putting in the pan.”

Randy Talley, president and co-owner of the Green Sage Café, aims to change that. “Restaurants,” he notes, “create a seamless experience for diners. You come in and we feed you like mom, and the perception is everything is nourishing like mom’s food.”

But that might not always be the case, he points out. For example, a restaurant might use the word “organic” loosely, creating the impression that everything on the menu comes from the farm right around the corner. “When I use the word ‘organic,’ it needs to mean certified organic,” says Talley, a former natural foods grocer.

Green Sage recently drafted a policy that calls for it to be a 100 percent GMO-free restaurant by 2016, Talley reports.

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Demand vs. cost

Talley, however, says the Green Sage thinks about its customers’ wallets when it considers adding more organic and non-GMO items to the menu.

“We have consciously added more and more of those ingredients since we opened in 2008, and we really only increased our prices accordingly this year,” says Talley. “We’ve always been concerned that the benchmark that people will pay for food is really what people will pay everywhere else, and we can’t be that much more.”