Neil Young to Starbucks: ‘I Want a Cup of Coffee, but I Don’t Want a GMO’

The rock hero’s new music video has a bone to pick with Big Ag, food chains, and anti-GMO-labeling legislation.
Jun 1, 2015·
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

The only things Neil Young loves more than organic lattes are rhyme-heavy folk ballads and dismantling Big Ag’s stranglehold on the American farmscape. In his new music video for “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop,” the first single from his forthcoming (and staunchly anti-GMO) album The Monsanto Years, the indefatigable rocktivist denounces Starbucks for its alleged involvement in a lawsuit that aims to ban Vermont from enforcing a mandatory GMO labeling law.

“I want a cup of coffee but I don’t want a GMO/I’d like to start my day off without helping Monsanto,” Young croons alongside his touring band, Promise of the Real, which is helmed by Lukas Nelson, son of fellow agriculturally conscious rocker and Farm Aid president Willie Nelson.

So, Why Should You Care? The lawsuit that sparked Young’s song is important for several reasons. In May 2014, Vermont passed the nation’s first mandatory GMO labeling law. It doesn’t go into effect until June 2016, so the Grocery Manufacturers Association—a trade group that represents several massive corporations, including ConAgra and Starbucks—had plenty of time to file a lawsuit claiming the law was unconstitutional. Though the coffee giant explicitly denies it’s part of the lawsuit or that it has a partisan stance on genetically modified ingredients, that didn’t stop Young from singling it out as the poster child for corporate anti-transparency.

Although there has been no scientific evidence showing that genetically modified crops are harmful to human health, 93 percent of Americans polled believe they have the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered. The only way to be fully transparent and not let corporations be “willfully blind,” as the lawyer representing Vermont stated in court, is to enforce labeling requirements.

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

Young is about six months into his Starbucks boycott. “I used to line up and get my latte everyday, but yesterday was my last one,” he wrote on his blog in November. “Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling.” Earlier in May, the GMA filed for an appeal after its motion for an injunction was denied, so the rock star with a heart of gold might very well have to go another Frappuccino-less year.