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Neil Young vows Starbucks boycott over GMO suit

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Rock icon Neil Young has pledged to stop drinking at Starbucks over an industry challenge to laws on genetically modified crops, but the coffee giant says the charges are false.

[NEW YORK] Rock icon Neil Young has pledged to stop drinking at Starbucks over an industry challenge to laws on genetically modified crops, but the coffee giant says the charges are false.

The Canadian songwriter and environmental activist urged his fans to put pressure on Starbucks over a lawsuit filed by an industry group against the US state of Vermont, the first state to pass a law requiring labels on genetically modified products.

Young accuses Starbucks of backing the industry group challenging the GMO law.

"I used to line up and get my latte every day, but yesterday was my last one," Young recently wrote on his blog in a post titled "GOODBYE STARBUCKS!!!" "Whatever you think of GMOs, corporations should not be using massive lawsuits to overturn legitimate, democratic decisions with strong public backing," Young wrote.

Young was referring to a lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an industry group that fought a similar ballot initiative in California.

The group in June announced a lawsuit against Vermont's law on constitutional grounds, arguing that only the federal government had the role of "regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce." Starbucks said that the activists' charges that it was involved in the lawsuit were "completely false." "Starbucks is not a part of any lawsuit pertaining to GMO labeling nor have we provided funding for any campaign," it said in a statement, while adding that as a chain it preferred a "national solution" on the issue.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association in a statement said that Starbucks was an "affiliate member" and not involved in policy work or the Vermont lawsuit.

A Starbucks spokesman said that "like most multinational companies" the Seattle coffee giant feels a need to "participate in trade associations giving us a voice in the industry debate about exactly these kinds of issues." Young in his posting accused Starbucks of "hiding behind the shadowy 'Grocery Manufacturers Association.'" Young acknowledged that Starbucks has been progressive on other issues including labor conditions and gay rights. The coffee giant has also committed to reducing its climate change footprint.

US biotech companies such as Monsanto have been at the forefront of genetically modified crops, which they say can improve agriculture.

While common in the United States, genetically modified crops are banned or heavily regulated in many countries, including European Union members and Japan, due to public concerns.

AFP