May 14, 2016 by Staff Reporter
Neil Young is no stranger to speaking out when he sees something is wrong.
Throughout his career the Canadian rocker – who is amongst only a few who have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame twice – has used his music and fame to shine a light on political and environmental issues that are close to his heart.
He’s protested the tar sands projects in Canada, stood up for the rights of indigenous people in Canada, and initiated a boycott of Starbucks until they stop supporting Monsanto’s bid to block GMO labelling.
His song ‘Ohio’ – written during his time with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – is a blunt and devastating condemnation of the massacre, by police, of four students at Ohio State University in 1970, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock protest songs of all time.
Young is about to embark on a tour of the UK/ROI to promote his new album The Monsanto Years. The album has a strong anti-corporate theme running through it and features songs exploring global hunger, pesticides, GMOs, seeds and ecology. Young will also be promoting another new album Earth – a series of live recordings from his concerts in the US.
To underscore the campaigning themes in the album, Neil has will be bringing a Global Village of activists on tour with him, giving a diverse group of NGOs in each country an opportunity to reach out to a much larger audience with their message and materials.
He has also recently launched a website, GoEarth.org, based around the activities of the Global Village, that is a resource site for helping people ‘go green’.
“The Monsanto Years are here and we are living them,” says Young. “Monsanto is the poster-child for what is wrong with corporate controlled government in our world. The Monsanto Years encompasses several associated subjects that millions of people worldwide are concerned about and active in. Earth is not ours. We are of the Earth. That’s how I feel. When we plunder our own home we hurt our children and their children after them. I feel responsible,”
The Global Village, which has already toured the US with Neil Young and Promise of the Real, and proved extremely popular, comprises a series of themed tents focussing on GMOs, Earth Ecology, Energy & Climate, Global Justice, Future of Farming, and News You Can Trust (details of other participating groups can be found on our media resources page).
Neil is providing this platform for a diverse group of respected national and local organisations in each country so they can reach out to a much larger audience and hopefully inspire others to get more involved with these important issues.
Of The Monsanto Years, and those groups who campaign on the issues at its heart, Young says:
“Corporations were originally created to serve us; but if we don’t appropriately prioritize they will destroy us. Corporations don’t have children. They don’t have feelings or soul. They don’t depend on uncontaminated water, clean air or healthy food to survive. They are beholden to one thing – the bottom line.
“I choose to speak truth to this economic power. When I speak out on corporations hurting the common man or the environment or other species, I expect a well-financed disinformation campaign to be aimed my way.”
Indeed this has been the case, with strong reactions to the album from Monsanto and other corporations.
Young, however, is adamant: “I support those bringing these issues to light and those who fight for their rights like freedom of choice. But freedom of choice is meaningless without knowledge. That’s why it’s crucial we all get engaged and get informed.”
Of all the issues explored on the album, the theme of sustainable farming and GMOs is the one that surfaces the most often. Arguably, as a co-founder (with singers Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews) of the US charity Farm Aid, which supports small and family farmers, it is the one closest to his heart.
Young is a strong supporter of GMO labelling and during the US tour publicly pledged $100,000 to the Vermont State’s legal fund to help fight the corporate interests which were (and still are!) trying to prevent the state from enacting a law requiring all GMO-containing foods to be labelled.
“When the people have voted for labelling, as they have in Vermont, they need our support when they are fighting these corporate interests trying to reverse the laws they have voted for and passed in the democratic process,” says Young.
Beyond GM was privileged to participate in East Coast leg of Neil’s US tour as a guest of GMO Free USA. Now we have been chosen to organise the GMO and Future of Farming tents in the Global Villages throughout the UK and the rest of the EU. The tour starts in Glasgow on June 5 and continues onto the continent, concluding in Austria on July 23.
Beyond GM is no stranger to big activities that grab people’s attention. From our huge digital billboard at Waterloo station, and high profile activities such as The Letter from America, GM Free Me and the new kids video project Our Food Our Future, we aim to use a mixture of good information and creative public campaigning to ensure that the scientific uncertainty, and the serious concerns that the majority of us have about GMOs in the food supply, are kept in front of our regulators, politicians, scientists and the media.
Beyond GM Director, Pat Thomas, whose career has straddled both music journalism and activism, says:
“Music by itself doesn’t change anything. But delivered, as it so often is, by charismatic, committed and creative artists, it has a unique ability to turn up the volume on social and political issues to the point where they are impossible to ignore. Activist musicians, like Neil Young, are plugged in to the current desire, and urgent need, for cultural change. They can bypass a corporate media, that is fearful of challenging the status quo, and put important issues like agricultural GMOs in front of the public and encourage them to turn the message into action. We are immensely grateful to Neil for the opportunity to be included on this unique public platform and the journey it is making across the UK and the rest of Europe.”
Beyond GM’s involvement in the tour is supported by several big organic and natural brands in the UK: Pukka Teas, Dove’s Farm, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Viridian Nutrition and, in London, the organic supermarket chain As Nature Intended – all of whom are committed to the ‘no GMO’ message and will be providing information and free goodies to visitors to the Beyond GM tent.
It is also partnering with Garden Organic to give out packets of organic seeds with a special postcard, featuring an iconic photo of Neil in Maui (taken by Daryl Hannah) to commemorate the concerts.
Says James Campbell, CEO of Garden Organic:
“Garden Organic, backed by tens of thousands of members and supporters, is an active supporter of Beyond GM’s exciting initiative with Neil Young’s UK tour. Raising awareness of both the core issue and practical action is absolutely key to engaging stakeholders in meaningful debate – recent experience of ‘people power’ – for example, bringing pressure to bear over Glyphosate licence renewal – shows how effective this can be.”
Thomas adds: “The majority of people want to be GM free and believe the UK is somehow ‘safe’. Few realise that the meat and dairy they are eating is GM-fed or that the UK government is stealthily – and undemocratically – pushing ahead with plans to plant GMOs on our soil by 2017. New field trials have just been given the go ahead for GM camelina and GM potatoes and we are on track to start living the GMO nightmare that people in the Americas are so desperately trying to escape. Big public forums like The Monsanto Years tour and its Global Village are an important opportunity to open people’s eyes to what’s really going on.”
A safe, sane, sustainable food supply is everybody’s business.
In these days of soundbite activism – where celebrities can pick up and put down causes on a whim – Neil Young’s Global Village is a unique undertaking and a solid commitment to making sure that the voices of those advocating for a better future get heard.
Beyond GM’s participation in the UK leg of the tour was made possible, in part, by the kind sponsorship of these campaigning brands: