Posts on Facebook falsely claim all McDonald’s French fries come from Bill Gates and a “genetically modified potato farm”.
One of the posts, which share the same image showing Mr Gates overlaid on a photo of McDonald’s fries, has been shared more than 24,000 times.
The text on the image says: “in case you didn’t know every single McDonald’s french fry comes exclusively from Bill Gates and genetically modified potato farm. EVERY SINGLE ONE. [sic]” This is not true.
McDonald’s UK does not use genetically modified potatoes, and McDonald’s globally buys potatoes from many different suppliers.
Bill Gates has been the subject of many other false claims we’ve seen online, including that he owns the Covid-19 vaccine, funds a company that caused malaria cases, bought Telegram and launched artificial breast milk.
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Where do McDonald’s fries come from?
The claim in the posts may have come from reports that Mr Gates’ investment firm, Cascade Investments, owns a farm named 100 Circles Farm, which is listed as a potato supplier on the McDonald’s USA website.
100 Circles Farm is located near the Columbia River in Patteson, Washington, and grows potatoes in rotation with other crops such as sweet corn and wheat. None of the potatoes from 100 Circles Farm are genetically modified.
It is true that 100 Circles Farm supplies a lot of potatoes to McDonald’s. The fast food chain’s website states that potatoes are grown on the farm in circles so big that they’re visible from space. It claims that the farm can produce up to 2,400 tonnes of potatoes a day, and the majority of these become McDonald’s fries.
But 100 Circles Farm is not the only potato supplier to McDonald’s USA. Two other potato farmers are listed as examples on its website—both farmers appear to own their land and there’s no evidence of a link to Mr Gates.
According to reports, Cascade Investments is the largest farmland owner in the US with more than 269,000 acres of farmland across 18 states. The extent of Mr Gates’s land ownership has been a source of controversy.
Full Fact contacted both Cascade Asset Management Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation concerning these land holdings. Neither wished to comment publicly on the claims.
In 2015, McDonald’s UK reportedly announced it would source all of its potatoes from British suppliers, where a proportion had previously come from northern European countries such as Germany. Its website says it sources the majority of its potatoes from 110 British growers.
Does McDonald’s use genetically modified potatoes?
The posts also suggest the potatoes used for McDonald’s french fries are genetically modified. However, the McDonald’s UK website states it does not use genetically modified (GM) ingredients in its food.
McDonald’s USA also does not use GM potatoes for its fries. There have been reports of other GM ingredients being used in the McDonald’s supply chain, such as soybeans for oil or corn to feed animal stock.
Full Fact has contacted McDonald’s USA about this and whether GM potatoes could be used in McDonald’s restaurants elsewhere in the world— we will update the article if we hear back.
The World Health Organisation and the Royal Society, an academy for scientists in the UK, both say that GM food is safe to eat. GM foods are only authorised for sale in the UK if assessments by the Food Standards Agency show that they do not present a risk to health.
We’ve written about other claims relating to McDonald’s, such as whether it uses a toxic pesticide, mechanically separated chicken and whether its burgers are only 15% beef.
Image courtesy of Dinkun Chen