Two weeks after releasing his latest album, Neil Young returned to the spotlight with a call to boycott Seattle coffee chain Starbucks. The boycott is a result of a lawsuit the company is involved in against the state of Vermont over a new law which requires companies in Vermont to label any use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food sold commercially. Young, a long-time activist against the use of GMOs in the food supply, was disappointed in Starbucks’ decision to fight the law.
In a blog post on his website, entitled Goodbye Starbucks, he went into the details of the lawsuit. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), comprised of over 300 food service and food distribution companies, has brought suit in federal court against Vermont for what they deem the unfair practice of requiring labeling of all consumer food containing GMOs. Legally, the plaintiffs are citing free speech laws as they apply to corporations, which is something Young takes issue with, calling the association ‘shadowy.’
While the GMA holds firm to the belief that Vermont’s new law is unconstitutional and based solely on what is a talking point of the day instead of being backed up by sufficient scientific evidence, Young takes a different note. In his post, he refers to this issue as a David-and-Goliath type of fight where it is important to protect Vermont’s law requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs because other states have committed to following suit should Vermont succeed.
Starbucks spoke out against Young’s boycott by saying they were not affiliated with the ongoing suit in Vermont, and instead were hoping for a clearer cut national solution to the GMO labeling issue. Starbucks issued a statement vehemently denying any alliance with GMO producer Monsanto and asked the GMA to correct Starbucks’ stance on the matter within the petition to the court.
Young admits in his post that he is a devotee of a daily trip to Starbucks for a latte, and maintains his stance that the lawsuit brought against Vermont is a form of bullying against a small and almost entirely rural state. He has directed those that support the cause for labeling GMOs to donate or sign a petition at sumofus.org and hopes to get over half-of-a-million signatures asking Starbucks to remove themselves entirely from the lawsuit.
Young’s website post also points out that though long-embattled Monsanto may not care about a grassroots effort to better educate consumers and make them more aware of GMOs being used in the food supply, Starbucks would care if enough people joined the cause with him. So far, the money raised on the petition website has reached over a quarter-of-a-million dollars, which has been sent to Vermont to help defend themselves in this lawsuit.
In June, Vermont ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s decided to stop using products made with GMOs in their products ahead of the new labeling law, which is a decision that garnered great praise from their customers. The Vermont labeling law will require all food containing GMOs to be labeled by the summer of 2016, but the lawsuit may possibly delay when the law takes effect. There is no word on how long Young’s boycott of Starbucks will stand.
By Jennifer Gulbrandsen