Quantcast

Neil Young Takes His Anti-Monsanto Message on the Road

GMO

Grammy Award-winning artist Neil Young has been a powerful presence in music for the past 50 years. In addition to his artistic career, Young has become a vocal advocate for social justice, working specifically to highlight issues that impact farmers and the food system. In 1985, Young joined Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp to launch Farm Aid to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds for family farmers. Today, Farm Aid contributes to the campaign for transparency around genetically modified foods.

Neil Young has become a vocal advocate for social justice, working specifically to highlight issues that impact farmers and the food system.

In 2015, Young released his 36th studio album, The Monsanto Years, a concept-based criticism of multinational agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company. A collaboration with Willie Nelson's sons Lukas and Micah, the album also condemns other industrial agriculture giants like Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and Bayer—corporations that, like Monsanto, have garnered control of global seed production.

By creating patents for genetically engineered seed, these firms have taken away farmers’ right to save their own seeds.

“Monsanto wants to sell the farmers the seeds and they want to license the seeds,” Bob McFarland of the California State Grange said. “So the farmers can only use those seeds for one cycle, then they have to go back to Monsanto and buy the seeds again.”

The rise of GE crops has dramatically increased the use of pesticides and herbicides, which poison wildlife—most notably birds and key pollinating species like bees and butterflies—and impact public health. Herbicide-resistant (a.k.a. Roundup Ready) GE crops, according to a 2012 Washington State University study, have led to a 527-million-pound increase in herbicide use in the U.S. between 1996 and 2011. Critics of genetically engineering seeds warn that the next generation of GE crops will only increase the use of even more toxic pesticides and herbicides.

More than 90 percent of all GE crops cultivated in the U.S. have been engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most popular weedkiller. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.”

Unsurprisingly, Monsanto is not fond of Neil Young’s new album. "Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young,” the company told Billboard. “Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do—and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics."

The album’s concepts stretch beyond the lyrics, with Young using visual cues to underscore the harsh reality of industrial farming. At a July 2015 performance in Massachusetts a few weeks after the album’s release, a performative piece introduced the band’s first song, with stagehands dressed as farmers “planting seeds” on the stage, followed by another group wearing hazmat outfits who sprayed the seeds with pesticides.

One of the songs on the album, “Working Man,” is about farmers who have been prosecuted for saving their seeds. “That song is a microcosm of the larger problem that we’ve been talking about with farmers being stripped of their right to choose what they want to grow,” George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety senior attorney, said.

Center for Food Safety, an environmental nonprofit and Hollywood Food Guild—a Center for Food Safety-produced initiative that organizes Hollywood to advocate for food and farm system integrity—followed Young on tour in Red Rocks, Colorado, to join his mission to educate the public about the threats posed by Monsanto and other Big Ag corporations. At each tour location, Young created an “eco-village” where concertgoers could find information about family farmers, industrial farming, the inequities of the food system, organic foods and the impact of pesticides on animals and humans. Young's international tour begins this summer.

“Neil is a man after our own heart,” Kaiulani Kimbrell, director of Hollywood Food Guild and host of the guild’s original content series Food Voices, said. “He has used his voice and his music to protect our environment and increase transparency around … the tragedy that’s happened with our food system.”

For a behind-the-scenes look at Neil Young's tour, The Monsanto Years, watch this Hollywood Food Guild video:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Pro-GMO Group Crosses Ethical Line

These 3 Women Attend Monsanto’s Annual Shareholder Meeting Demanding Answers

Syngenta Megamerger Must Be Blocked

The Inside Story of How a University Professor Quietly Collaborated With Monsanto

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Boeing 737-800 BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) is marked "Prime Air" as part of Amazon Prime's freight aircraft during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France on June 22. Mustafa Yalcin / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

It's Prime Day! The day when thousands of increasingly absurd items are discounted so deeply that you suddenly need items you never knew existed. Yes, I do need a hotdog shaped toaster next to me while I watch this Fast & Furious seven movie box set! And I need it in my house today!

Read More Show Less

By Peter Sinclair

The weather in many areas across the U.S. has been – and certainly throughout America's heartland was for much of the past winter and spring – frightful.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
There's a short window between when a tick bites and when it passes on bacteria or virus. MSU Ag Communications, Courtesy Dr. Tina Nations, CC BY-ND

By Jerome Goddard

When it comes to problems caused by ticks, Lyme disease hogs a lot of the limelight. But various tick species carry and transmit a collection of other pathogens, some of which cause serious, even fatal, conditions.

Read More Show Less
tomosang / Moment / Getty Images

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Say goodbye to one of the dreamiest things about childhood. In the Midwest, fireflies are dying off.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A new Climate Emergency Fund contains more than $625,000 which will go to grassroots climate action groups like Extinction Rebellion and students who have organized weekly climate strikes all over the world. @ExtinctionR / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Heeding the call of grassroots campaigners, several wealthy philanthropists announced Friday a new fund that will raise money for climate action groups around the world.

Read More Show Less
Skyhobo / iStock / Getty Images

The Trump administration is preparing to roll out a proposal that would remove communities' ability to officially contest decisions regarding how much pollution can be released by local power plants and factories, the New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
In this May 10 photo oil flows at a Chevron oil field in Kern County, California. California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response

California officials ordered Chevron Friday "to take all measures" to stop a release that has spilled around 800,000 gallons of water and crude oil into a dry creek bed in Kern County, KQED reported.

Read More Show Less