Solar Halo

GMO-Free: Latest in a Long Line of Health Halos

It looks like GMO-Free may be on its way to becoming the next in a long line of health halo scams that lead people to assign unjustified health benefits to foods because of claims that line up with popular convictions. Chipotle is amping up its promotion of a healthy image for the restaurant chain with a series of Cultivate Festivals across the country this summer. People get a strong dose of food, music, and anti-GMO pseudo science. After visiting “educational” exhibits at one such festival, one young mother named Alex Jessee told NPR that she learned:

That these GMOs could be harmful to us, the environment, but they don’t necessarily have to tell us that we’re eating them. Which isn’t very cool.

Nevermind that claims of health benefits for GMO-free foods are evidence-free. The well-documented health halo effect is enough to lead people to infer health benefits when they see a claim that aligns with their social or philosophical convictions.

Published recently in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, a study by John Peloza demonstrated that consumers will consistently underestimate the calorie count of food products from companies with strong reputations for corporate social responsibility.

Chipotle gets it. They are merrily serving up meals that average more than a thousand calories and enjoying a reputation for promoting good health. Their stock just hit an all-time high and they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Now that’s cool!

Click here to read more from NPR and here to read the study of food halos and corporate social responsibility.

Solar Halo, photograph © Stephen Bowler / flickr

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August 20, 2015

2 Responses to “GMO-Free: Latest in a Long Line of Health Halos”

  1. August 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm, Nanette said:

    People seem to ignore science and believe that GMOs are a new thing. We’ve been modifying crops to save plants from disease for centuries. This is what happens when poorly read people of power influence society… the blind leading the blind.

    • August 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm, Ted said:

      You are so right, Nanette. All the brouhaha about GMO corn is particularly funny since humans have been messing with the genes of corn for a very long time.