MONTPELIER, Vt. – Rocker Neil Young is lending his support to the state’s efforts to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Young, who performed in concert Sunday at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, appeared earlier with Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and donated $100,000 to a fund devoted to defending Vermont’s genetically modified organism, or GMO, labeling law from legal challenges.
Shumlin said Monday that Young’s donation was “a huge help.”
“It’s a huge gift, and we need more like them,” he said, to help defray the costs of a legal battle that Attorney General Bill Sorrell has estimated could cost the state as much as $8 million.
Vermont last year passed a law under which it’s scheduled to become the first state to require foods with altered DNA to be labeled as such. Connecticut and Maine previously had passed laws that would take effect only if neighbouring states joined in.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America and other industry groups are suing to block the law before its scheduled implementation date, July 1, 2016.
When Shumlin signed the law 14 months ago, he announced the formation of the Vermont Food Fight Fund to collect donations to help fight the expected legal challenges. Before Sunday, the effort had raised about $450,000, the governor said; Young’s donation boosted it by more than 20 per cent.
“I’m just a rock ‘n’ roller who believes people should know what they’re eating,” Young said during his appearance with Shumlin.
He said he hoped his donation would inspire others to do the same.
“We would like to see some of the high rollers in Vermont who believe in this come up and match that,” he said.
Shumlin said Young “called me out of the blue about 10 days ago and said, ‘I’m coming to Vermont. I want to help you raise money for the Vermont food fight.'”
Young has been touring to promote a new album, “The Monsanto Years,” which is sharply critical of the Monsanto Co.’s role in agriculture. This couplet provides an example:
“The farmer knows he’s got to grow what he can sell, Monsanto, Monsanto
“So he signs a deal for GMOs that makes life hell with Monsanto, Monsanto.”
Monsanto, a sustainable-agriculture company that says it delivers agricultural products that support farmers worldwide, has responded by saying many of its workers are fans of Young. But it chides Young for being wrapped up in “myths” surrounding it and its marketing of genetically modified seeds.
“We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do — and unfortunately several of those myths are captured in his lyrics,” company spokeswoman Kelly Clauss wrote in an email Monday.
In another song, Young sings about the Vermont legal fight.
“When the people of Vermont wanted 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/ They sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will,” the song goes.