Originally published July 30 2015
Neil Young donates $100,000 to defend Vermont's GMO labeling law
by S. Johnson
(NaturalNews) Legendary musician Neil Young has joined the state of Vermont to fight big food corporations like Monsanto in one of the most important battles for honest food labeling in the United States. In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin made history by signing the first law in the United States that would require labeling of genetically engineered foods, much to the chagrin of food industry groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which receives funding from major companies including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Monsanto and Unilever. The law is set to go into effect on July 1, 2016, but only if it doesn't get blocked by the GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
When a state decides to implement a law that provides transparency about what is in the food that is sold to its citizens, the most natural response is for all the major food manufacturers to sue. The plaintiffs claim that the new law is encroaching on their First Amendment rights and "...imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers." Vermont now faces a fight against some very wealthy and powerful entities, but Neil Young has Vermont's back. One can imagine that Neil Young would agree with Robert Reich when he wrote, "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one." Young is currently touring for his studio album The Monsanto Years and has pledged to raise money for Vermont to fight the "food fight so you [Vermont] can beat Monsanto" and "beat the big corporations." Young called Governor Shumlin this week and said that he would donate $100,000 of his ticket sales to fight back against Monsanto. Neil told Shumlin, "I'm just a rock and roller who believes people should know what they're eating."
Vermont has already raised $450,000 through the Vermont Food Fight Fund, which was established by the Legislature. Originally set up to fund the implementation of the new GMO-labeling law, the Vermont Food Fight Fund is now expected to use their money against powerful lawsuits from companies like Monsanto. A track from The Monsanto Years called "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop" references Vermont's very personal battle against companies like the GMA, Starbucks and Monsanto: "When the people of Vermont wanted to label food with GMOs / So that they could find out what was in what the farmer grows / Monsanto and Starbucks through the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance / They sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people's will."
The GMA has successfully defeated GMO-labeling ballot measures in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and California. Perhaps this is why Neil Young has stepped in, calling on others to step up to support the new law. The GMA put forth millions of dollars to defeat similar measures, and they will certainly play the same game with Vermont. As for why the GMA is so ardently against the labeling measure, their only response so far has been to claim, "The First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day." The GMA also warned that Vermont's law would create a domino effect in the other states, strangely ignoring the fact that there has been a serious effort by many real citizens to do just this. "Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law – Act 120 – is a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers." The GMA ignores the fact that citizens do in fact want their foods labeled. Perhaps consumers shouldn't be taking health and safety advice from Coca-Cola and Monsanto. It should give one pause to see the GMA investing so heavily and aggressively against a cause that is so commonplace in most other developed nations in the world, including those of the European Union.
Neil Young understands something that the GMA has brazenly ignored: The people want GMO food-labeling, and the consequence of other states following in Vermont's footsteps stems from their desire to do so. Young said, "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."
In the midst of searching for a solution for the people, Neil Young has also put the spotlight on Starbucks for their affiliation with the GMA. Starbucks has attempted to distance itself from the Vermont lawsuit, but Young hasn't let them off the hook so easily. "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."
When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself, who do you really trust? The billionaire companies who sue Vermont after citizens have made their voices heard, or the man who understands how hard it can be to keep rockin' in the free world?
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