Neil Young Doesn’t Believe Monsanto’s Got a Heart of Gold

The rock legend’s new album takes big agribusiness to task.

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Apr 23, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As if spring weren’t already shaping up to be a dismal season for Monsanto, now the ag-tech giant has to contend with a full-fledged anti-GMO protest album.

Ever-cantankerous rocker Neil Young has announced a new LP—The Monsanto Years—that’s set for release in June. While there’s no word yet on the titles of the album’s songs, much less the lyrics, it’s probably safe to assume the record won’t be a paean to its corporate source of inspiration, given Young’s long-running criticism of Monsanto and genetically modified organisms.

Last week, Young and his band, Promise of the Real, performed a surprise concert at a microbrewery in San Luis Obispo, California; the set list reportedly featured songs that might appear on the album, including “Monsanto Years,” “Seeds,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “Rock Starbucks,” according to Rolling Stone.

Young’s beef with Starbucks can be tied to Monsanto as well. The musician took the coffee chain to task last fall for its membership in the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance, which sued Vermont to overturn the state’s landmark GMO-labeling law. (On his website, Young proclaims, “Still no latte for me. No more Starbucks at all until the giant corporation stands up and comes clean.”)

Perhaps in solidarity with Vermonters, Young has also scheduled what appears to be his first concert in the state, one of 11 dates on his “Rebel Content Tour,” which will kick off at Milwaukee’s Summerfest on July 5.

Monsanto’s hometown newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, sought to get an official reaction to Young’s announcement of his new album, but the paper reports that a “Monsanto spokesman was not immediately available for comment.”

It could be that the PR team at Monsanto headquarters is too busy trying to deal with a whole lot of bad press lately. The Big Ag behemoth just reported worse-than-expected earnings for the second quarter, with a decline in revenue of 11 percent, owing to slackening demand for its patented corn seeds.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization dropped a bombshell last month by declaring that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s blockbuster weed killer Roundup—and the herbicide on which the company’s line of genetically modified Roundup Ready crops depends—probably causes cancer.

The profligate overuse of Roundup since Monsanto debuted its glyphosate-resistant crops two decades ago has also been linked to the staggering decline in the population of monarch butterflies, whose numbers have dwindled to a fraction of those reported in the mid-1990s. (The herbicide kills native milkweed, the only plant on which monarch caterpillars can feed.) Thus, with migrating butterflies returning from Mexico this time of year, Monsanto also has to contend with the rolling PR mess of environmental activists pummeling it for wiping out what is perhaps America’s most iconic butterfly.

Oh, and then there’s the $600,000 fine Monsanto agreed to pay following its failure to report hundreds of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals over the course of three years at its phosphate plant in eastern Idaho.

Monsanto might want to consider releasing its own album, singing the blues.