Neil Young is protesting Starbucks. And when Neil Young protests something, people notice — for better or for worse.
When the National Guard rolled in to Kent State back in the 60s and left four students dead in their wake, the country was shocked. Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young had just completed an album and it was in pressings. But something had to be said. Neil Young was the man to bang that song out. The band recorded it hastily, put it on 45s, and got it to radio stations ahead of their album.
"Ten soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio”
(from “Ohio” by CSNY)
Neil Young, who had already done “For What It’s Worth,” a classic Vietnam protest song with Buffalo Springfield, has a hallowed place in protest music.
Young is Canadian by birth, but now lives in San Mateo, California, so some Americans take issue with him commenting on their … issues. Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd was probably the biggest. When Neil Young released tracks like “Alabama” and “Southern Man”, both of which were aimed at the intolerance and racism in the American South, Van Zant told Young to stick it.
"I hear Mr. Young sing about her
I heard ol’ Neil put her down
I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern Man don’t need him around, anyhow"
(from “Sweet Home Alabama”)
Now Neil Young is taking on something a little closer to Canada: Starbucks.
“I used to line up and get my latte everyday,” Young wrote on his website, “but yesterday was my last one."
What has miffed Young at Starbucks? Starbucks is part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is joining with Monsanto to sue the state of Vermont to prevent a requirement for genetically-modified ingredients in food to be identified on the label.
Young’s statement continued.
"Tell Starbucks to withdraw support for the lawsuit — we have a right to know what we put in our mouths. Starbucks doesn't think you have the right to know what's in your coffee. So it’s teamed up with Monsanto to sue the small U.S. state of Vermont to stop you from finding out.
Hiding behind the shadowy “Grocery Manufacturers Association," Starbucks is supporting a lawsuit that's aiming to block a landmark law that requires genetically-modified ingredients be labeled. Amazingly, it claims that the law is an assault on corporations’ right to free speech.
Monsanto might not care what we think -- but as a public-facing company, Starbucks does. 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.”
Young believes that bringing a company like Starbucks to heel can eventually wear down the support for stopping the GMO law in Vermont. And if that happens, the possibility that such a labeling revolution could catch on is well worth losing lattes.
"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."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association is clear about their support of GMOs.
"The use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients is not only safe for people and our planet, but also has a number of important benefits... GM technology adds desirable traits from nature, without introducing anything unnatural or using chemicals, so that food is more plentiful."
The group insists that people already eat lots of genetically-modified foods every day, and that these are proven to be safe by "the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Academy of Sciences."
But other groups insist that there are many health risks to GMOs that government agencies like the ones the GMA listed ignore. They say that these GMO foods may not cause acute poisoning, which would bring them under suspicion from the FDA and other agencies, but that they cause systemic damage over time, making people sick and weak.
People like Neil Young realize that they cannot stop GMOs from being used in food. They just want them to be required to be named on the label so consumers can make their own choices about what they put in their bodies.
But the GMA and Starbucks don't want that. So Neil Young is calling on everyone to put a dent in Starbucks' bottom line to make then see the error of their ways.
Now let’s see if any Starbucks swilling Southerners want to step up and tell Young to step off.
— Kim Wilson (@Journey2Midwife) November 16, 2014