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With the recent buzz still freshly roasting, Neil Young has plucked the GMO boycott nerve like a finely tuned guitar string. His recent announcement calling for a boycott of Starbucks products covered by Rolling Stone magazine has resonated for better or worse.

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On Young’s website he states that “Monsanto might not care what we think — but as a public-facing company, Starbucks does.” Last spring, Vermont passed the very GMO labeling law that fell short this year in Oregon (92) and Colorado (105). To no one’s surprise, four corporate food organizations filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge it and forever be branded as ‘the bad guys’. Starbucks, along with Monsanto, both belong to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA); one of the four horseman plaintiffs in the Vermont lawsuit riding away with what’s left of corporate America’s integrity.

In response to Young’s call to boycott that went viral, Starbucks was forced to release a rapid public statement in which it wisely denied its active part in the lawsuit. Here is part of that statement:


“….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 labelling 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 labelling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution.”

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GMA & Monsanto: Birds Of A Feather

Taken at their word, Starbucks may not be part of the Vermont lawsuit, but they are part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (with Monsanto). Put a different way, Starbucks may not be attempting to rob the bank or disable the alarm, but they are outside in the getaway car. Starbucks is in the 5% of top grossing GMA member companies as measured by the coffee slingers 2013 revenue earnings of $14.9 billion. It appears that by being one of four associations suing Vermont, the GMA is breaking its agreed upon benefits and advantages initially marketed and offered to its members (Starbucks). The GMA’s ‘Benefits of Members‘ PDF found on their website states the following points (bold emphasis added):

GMA works across a broad spectrum of issues and disciplines to maintain and improve the trust consumers have in our member companies, their brands and products.

GMA is uniquely positioned to educate policymakers, the media and the public

GMA is committed to and promotes a culture of excellence that delivers value to member companies

GMA will advocate for the public policy interests of its members by participating and responding to legislation and regulation

Re: Topic For Tomorrow’s Starbucks Board Meeting

A quick pulse check of the current GMO labeling climate would reveal that the GMA is neglecting its duties by actively suing the state of Vermont. Vermont’s residents voted in favor of helping GMO companies to market their product to their consumers through better labeling. GMO labeling is arguably one of the more popular, common sense initiatives to ever activate an awake and empowered public. Large corporations such as Whole Foods have witnessed the movement coming and have wisely chosen to surf the coming wave with the introduction of their ‘Responsibly Grown‘ ratings system and their public promise to label all GMO food in their store by 2018. The Internet, social media, and the open sourcing of ideas are ending, one by one, companies and associations who talk out of both sides of their mouth while waving a ‘transparency’ flag. It is ultimately up to every person and corporation to decide which side of the road they are on. In a time when consumers are more educated than ever before, it’s telling that ‘the fifth most admired company in the world’ according to Fortune makes a statement like this:

Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO labeling

I would like to bring their attention to American writer Max Eastman who wrote, “People that demand neutrality in any situation are usually not neutral but in favor of the status quo.”

The status quo has changed and companies are scrambling to keep up, stay relevant, and grasp on to their market share accrued during less transparent times. The business and market leaders of tomorrow will not show indecisiveness on major issues that are mobilizing and passionately affecting communities across the world.

Where do you stand regarding GMO labeling?


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