Musical legend Neil Young and informed Americans are standing in solidarity with Vermont voters to boycott Starbucks in what promises to be one of the most exciting showdowns of our time. In a landmark vote on Act 120 the people of Vermont have passed an initiative requiring genetically modified organisms (GMO's) to be labeled. Ninety-three percent of Americans support the notion of knowing the truth about what is in their food but The Grocery Manufacturers Association, of which Starbucks is a member, are suing the State of Vermont to overturn the people's vote. This case is not just about Vermont, as the results will have ripples in every state across the country.
It is being called a "David and Goliath" battle with big business pitted against local farmers and citizens who have a right to know what is in their food. The lawsuit against Vermont will hurt individual tax-payers and the state financially, as well as create political retribution for elected candidates who support labeling in Vermont and elsewhere. It isn't easy to boycott Grocery Manufacturers Association for this assault on the will of American voters so consumers have found another way to get their attention:
Target an influential member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Starbucks, with a boycott. Neil Young and SumofUs.org are only a few of the folks who are fighting back and standing in support of Vermont and GMO labeling.
Those who claim that Starbucks isn't aligned with the lawsuit against Vermont are missing the brilliant strategy of this campaign. If Grocery Manufacturers Association is going after American voters right to know, then consumers are going after the supporters of Grocery Manufacturers Association. Other companies may be added to the boycott list over time.
Those who claim that GMO's are safe have done little to address the growing list of dangers and concerns that are being raised across the board. Their claim that "scientific tests prove that GMO's are safe" is based on a few selective tests of GMO food that do not take the larger picture into account.
Public health and farming do not happen in a vacuum, there's more involved with genetically engineered and large-scale commercial agriculture than solely testing the final harvest. This includes (just to name a few) the health of our eco-system including increased pesticides in our water, the bees, the soil, GMO pollen contaminating organic crops, and beyond. A Greenpeace article sums it up as, "These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating non-"GE" environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way." For a comprehensive and well-cited article on the topic please read, 10 Reasons to Say No to Genetically Engineered Crops and Food.
The call to have GMO foods labeled is not only about our right to know what we are eating for personal health reasons, it is about having a choice regarding large-scale commercial farming practices that are unsustainable and threatening to public health and the environment at large.
Opponents of labeling say that it will increase food costs to consumers. Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry's stated on Democracy Now, "Consumers Union, which puts out consumers reports, did a study for this last election in Oregon and discovered that adding labeling would cost about $3 a year to consumers' bills." He mentioned that labels are already part of the cost of doing business so that changing a label essentially costs nothing, "It's simply about being honest and telling consumers what's in your food."
$3 per year is less than the cost of one latte at Starbucks.
Would you buy a car from a used car salesman who wouldn't let you lift the hood and look at what's inside? I sure wouldn't. So why is The Grocery Manufacturers Association so bent on keeping Americans uninformed? Why do they insist GMO's are safe but refuse to address the growing list of environmental, and public health concerns as mentioned above? I don't know, perhaps you'd like to send them a message or call and ask for yourself...
This isn't merely about Vermont as the repercussions reach far and wide. Currently trade agreements like Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would continue to pave the way for multinationals to sue American states and their voters. Under the guise of corporate "freedom to do business," these lawsuits will punish anyone who challenges business practices that are harmful to public health and the environment.
Currently under this same model Monsanto is suing Maui because they didn't like the outcome of a recent vote against GMO's. This is a blatant disregard for voters and democracy which is very costly to tax-payers and must be stopped with a massive public outcry.
As D.C. has been sold to corporate interests, the battle for honest food labeling (and other progressive issues) is being successfully won with state-level ballot initiatives. A victory for corporations against Vermont and American voters in this case would be disastrous. The stakes are high and a statement from Starbucks in favor of public health, the environment, and the American voter will go a long way and win them favor with their customer base.
In the meantime you can sign the petition asking Starbucks to withdraw support from Grocery Manufacturers Association and join the growing boycott. There are plenty of small, local, independently owned coffee shops who could use the extra business. It is quite risky for Starbucks and the other companies who are part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association to take the stance that they do not support the will of American voters. Let's hope that they hear us and do the right thing!
Article originally appeared on Culture Collective