Neil Young is displeased over the latest connection to food labeling, Starbucks, and Monsanto's stance. The companies are part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is suing Vermont over food labeling requirements and claiming a limitation on 'freedom of speech.'
Rock legend Neil Young's taking on Starbucks after the company joined with GMO giant, Monsanto, to sue Vermont for more strict food labeling. But Snopes debunks Starbucks involvement. So what’s the real story?
Rolling Stone reports that "Vermont passed a law last spring that requires all food products containing GMOs to be labeled as such by July 1, 2016, with the exception of dairy products, meat, alcohol and food served in restaurants."
Four food industry organizations were not happy and filed a lawsuit challenging the state law's constitutionality. Monsanto and Starbucks are involved because they belong to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an organization with over 300 members. Other plaintiffs include Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Food Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
In return for the coffee company’s dismissal of concerns, Neil Young pulled support for Starbucks—parroting the SumOfUs petition rhetoric on his website, "Monsanto might not care what we think -- but as a public-facing company, Starbucks does." Rallying for support, he continued. "If we can generate enough attention, we can push Starbucks to withdraw its support for the lawsuit, and then pressure other companies to do the same."
Monsanto has faced severe criticism recently due to genetically modifying crops.
"I used to line up and get my latte everyday." Lamenting but determined, Young refused to waver. "But yesterday was my last one."
The "Sweet Caroline" crooner was unmoved by the Grocery Manufacturers Association claim the law is a violation of the right to free speech. But a quick perusal of Michigan State's Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives does not list labeling food as a restriction of freedom of speech, since proper labeling prevents "false advertising."
According to the Zauderer v. Office of Disc. Counsel judgment, the Supreme Court of Ohio deemed "the States and the Federal Government are free to prevent the dissemination of commercial speech that is false, deceptive, or misleading." Improper labeling runs the risk of medical sensitivity and possible death due to allergic and physical reaction.
Throughout the post on his personal site, the “Rockin’ in the Free World” vocalist continues the petition’s rhetoric, choosing phrases that appeal to personal philosophy.
Since Vermont only has 600,000 residents, "it's a classic David and Goliath fight between Vermont and Monsanto." Young is not on board with the idea of risking lives and pulled no punches. "Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling.”
He also reiterates “corporations should not be using massive lawsuits to overturn legitimate, democratic decisions with strong public backing” and running the risk of confirming the existence of separate court judgments based on campaign contribution levels.
"There's much more at stake here than just whether GMO foods will be labeled in a single U.S. state. Vermont is the very first state in the U.S. to require labeling. Dozens of other states have said that they will follow this path -- in order to encourage this, we need to ensure that Vermont's law stands strong.”
Neil Young notes the hypocrisy as well. “Considering that Starbucks has been progressive on LGBT and labor issues in the past, it's disappointing that it is working with the biggest villain of them all, Monsanto.”
Starbucks is not a part of any lawsuit pertaining to GMO labeling nor have we provided funding for any campaign. And Starbucks is not aligned with Monsanto to stop food labeling or block Vermont State law.
The petition claiming that Starbucks is part of this litigation is completely false and we have asked the petitioners to correct their description of our position.
Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO labeling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution.
However, Starbucks may need to follow the adage “you are the company you keep.”
If the company wishes to make a louder statement, putting a longer distance from the lawsuit would help the image. In a PR Newswire article last month, Green America President and GMO Inside co-chair Alisa Gravitz claims “Starbucks made the right move in removing growth hormones from its milk.”
The same article states “lately, the emergence of "super weeds" resistant to Roundup require more toxic herbicides to be applied to crops, with even more toxic 2,4-D and Duo Enlist hitting the market soon.” The anti-GMO movement is growing and Starbucks may find a small profit loss as customers discover reactions to GMO-fed cows. Dairy consumption is a big part of the Starbucks drink menu.
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But what about the GMOs found in other products? Symbiotic relationships in business exist and the lawsuit against Vermont provides a slippery slope. While the relationship is only tangentially connected, Starbucks remains complacent in not keeping up public communication on what the company stands for in age of GMO anxiety.