Eatin’ in the Free World

Perennial rock star Neil Young declared two weeks ago that he has sipped his last latte because Starbucks, the chic boutique of $10 coffee, is pro-GMO. According to Young, Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, the first state in the U.S. to pass a GMO labeling law, over the recently enacted legislation. “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,” said Young. Starbucks denies it, so I decided to probe further.

Neither Starbucks nor Monsanto is named as a party to the lawsuit, but both are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the lobbying group that filed the suit, and to which both Monsanto and Starbucks belong. According to the GMA, Starbucks is an “affiliate member” of the group, which is not involved in any policy, governance, or legal work with the Association.

According to Wikipedia, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association represents the world’s largest branded food, beverage and consumer product companies; over 300 in all. On December 5, 2013, the Association sent a letter to the FDA announcing its plans to petition the FDA to establish a rule allowing food made with genetically engineered products to be labeled as “natural,” something which is already done in practice. The policy making members of the GMA read like a “who’s who” of packaged foods, such as the presidents and CEOs of Kellogg’s, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Nestle, USA, Heinz, Mars, Campbell’s, and Del Monte, to name just a few, and both Monsanto and Starbucks are members.

According to the Des Moines Register, Coca-Cola, along with Du Pont Pioneer, Monsanto, Dow Agri Sciences, and Pepsico, and others, have spent over $100 million to defeat GMO labeling in California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, including the GMA, which was implicated in a money laundering scheme to mask the members who contributed to the campaign against the Washington measure, according to Washington’s Attorney General.

Besides not using organic coffee, Starbucks uses ingredients for its drinks such as high fructose corn syrup (a GMO product), propylene glycol, and other GMO ingredients, including soy, canola and corn oil.

Therefore, Starbucks’ denial that it is against GMO labeling is like a Ku Klux Klan member claiming that he is a champion of civil rights for African Americans. “Don’t be denied” Starbucks! Young is right, and I will be joining the “Southern Man” in his quest. The petition can be found at:

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