Music legend Neil Young, long known for his activism on behalf of family farms and local produce, is asking his fans to boycott Starbucks coffee and coffee shops during the busy holiday season.
He is calling for the boycott because of the role that Starbucks has allegedly played in a court case over genetically modified food items.
Young claims that the international coffee chain has been working with, and under the protection of, an organization called the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, or GMA. In Vermont, the GMA, along with three other food companies, is suing the state over a law requiring foods to be labeled as to whether or not they contain genetically modified ingredients. Regarding the Vermont law, the GMA supports the idea that the law infringes on their own and other corporations’ right to free speech. Starbucks is, indeed, one of the GMA’s member companies, but Starbucks representatives claim that their indivdual company has no role to play in the court case.
As part of his plea for a Starbucks boycott, Young has posted an open letter on his website. He urges the coffee chain, which has previously shown its progressive values in its treatment of LGBT employees, health care issues, and other labor disputes, to step up and take a stand against GMO foods, or at least their incorporation into products purchased by unsuspecting consumers. Young cites the fact that he was, in the past, a daily consumer of Starbucks beverages. However, he claims to have enjoyed his last cup of the company’s coffee until the GMO food issue can be satisfactorily resolved. Young is currently in the process of releasing his 35th album, Storytone, and hopes that publicity for the new album can help draw attention to the issue of GMO foods. The musician has long spoken out against GMO foods and companies like Monsanto, and he believes that the current Vermont court case is just another example of big business infringing on the rights of farmers and consumers.
At this time, Starbucks states that it has declined to take a stand on the issue of GMO foods. As previously mentioned, the company’s representation also states that the company has no stake in the course or outcome of the Vermont legal battle. However, the company also has not condemned the GMA’s move. In fact, Starbucks reps, pointing to the fact that the company has locations all across the United States, have stated that they are far more supportive of overall federal rulings on GMO foods, as opposed to state-by-state decisions.
Will Neil Young’s call to action lead to a boycott that deeply affects the coffee giant? With Starbucks’ many stand-alone, mall, and grocery store locations, it is hard to say what will happen during the busy holiday shopping season.