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Neil Young Bashes Starbucks in New Song About GMO Labeling

neil young starbucks

Neil Young and band quizzically eying coffee cups before throwing them into the trash during the new music video for “A Rockstar Bucks a Coffee Shop”

Neil Young has released a song harshly criticizing Starbucks Coffee Company for its alleged association with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and its federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn a new Vermont state law that would require labeling of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on food products.

The song, called “A Rockstar Bucks a Coffee Shop,” is part of Young’s forthcoming concept album, “The Monsanto Years,” in which Young is expected to debut original songs, all disparaging the multinational agrochemical company for its role as a leader in GMO engineering and genetically engineered seed production. Young, a Canadian by birth, has long been an advocate for American farmers, criticizing industrial farming organizations in live performances, media interviews and platforms like the long-running concert series FarmAid.

Young first openly criticized Starbucks in November of last year, writing on his website,  “I used to line up and get my latte everyday, but yesterday was my last one. Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling.” Later, he wrote, “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.”

In response to Young’s comments and a related boycott petition, Starbucks shortly after released a statement saying it had no association with Monsanto or the lawsuit. The company wrote, “Starbucks is not a part of any lawsuit pertaining to GMO labeling nor have we provided funding for any campaign. And Starbucks is not aligned with Monsanto to stop food labeling or block Vermont State law. The petition claiming that Starbucks is part of this litigation is completely false and we have asked the petitioners to correct their description of our position. Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO labeling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution.”

Young has since further criticized the company for not publishing any kind of formal position on the issue of GMO labeling.

In his new song, recorded with the Lukas and Micah Nelson, the sons of Willie Nelson, along with members of Lukas’ band Promise of the Real, Young pulls no punches. The music itself is upbeat and anthemic, including a simple repetition of verse and chorus with playful touches like whistling of the melody. The lyrics are remarkably inelegant and political, with Young half-singing verses such as:

When the people of Vermont voted 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, sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will. Monsanto and Starbucks, mothers want to know what they feed their children.

See the full clip below:


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