Tell Ben & Jerry’s: You’re Boycotting Their Products until They Throw Some Dough into the Washington State Ballot Initiative and the Vermont GMO Labeling Campaign.
Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, spent $467,100 to defeat Proposition 37, the California Right to Know GMO labeling campaign. Now the ice cream company, known for its quirky, hippy founders and its social activism, is hiding behind its “Get the Dough Out” of politics campaign as an excuse to not contribute money to the Washington State I-522 Ballot Initiative and the Vermont Right to Know GMO labeling campaign.
Please sign the letter below to Ben & Jerry’s co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, and social mission activism manager, Chris Miller. Tell them you won’t buy one more lick of ice cream from them until Ben & Jerry’s donates $467,100 to the WAshington State ballot initiative and the Vermont Right to Know campaign.
It’s bad enough that Ben & Jerry’s offers NO organic ice cream flavors. And that the company hasn’t yet eliminated genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from all of its products. But propping up its “progressive” image by telling consumers the company supports GMO labeling, while refusing to help the campaign out with what it really needs: cold hard cash? C’mon guys, you can do better.
The Washington State Ballot Initiative, waged on an electoral battleground much more favorable to our side than California’s Prop 37 last year, is very likely to pass on November 5. But we need to raise $8 million dollars to guarantee maximum media exposure and victory. Ben and Jerry’s needs to make a major financial commitment to support I-522, comparable to our own Organic Consumers Fund’s $500,000 commitment. They also need to get a public statement from their parent food corporation, Unilever, that Unilever will no longer contribute funds to defeat GMO state labeling efforts, and that the company will publicly press their trade association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, to do the same.
Vermont voters have been clear: 90 percent of them want a mandatory GMO labeling law. Last year’s version of a GMO labeling bill died when Governor Shumlin rolled over after Monsanto threatened to sue if the state passed the bill. This year, the governor is showing the same doubts, claiming the state can’t afford a lawsuit, even though the latest version of the bill has been rewritten to address the lawsuit issue.
So far, Ben & Jerry’s has stepped up to offer free ice cream at GMO labeling forums in the state. But ice cream will not a campaign win.
Will the real greenwasher please stand up?
When asked in a 2010 interview about the sale of Ben & Jerry’s to Unilever and whether he would accuse the European food conglomerate of “greenwash,” Ben Cohen said:
"Unilever quite likes to hold up Ben & Jerry's as kind of the poster child of socially responsible business and does use that to try to give an example of 'here is how socially concerned Unilever is, you know, we have the Ben & Jerry's brand'. And you know Ben and Jerry's does happen to be very high profile but when Unilever holds up Ben & Jerry's as 'our example of how socially responsible we are', you know, we should understand that Unilever is what? – a $40bn-$50bn business and we're a little piece of that." So it is greenwash? "Yeah,yeah."
But isn’t Ben & Jerry’s just as guilty of greenwashing when it makes a lot of noise about supporting GMO labeling, but doesn’t label its own products that contain GMOs? True, Ben & Jerry’s has pledged to be GMO-free by 2013, but what took them so long?
And how is it that a company that puts itself out there as “leading with progressive values across our business,” and claims to promote “business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment” justify a product line with zero organic choices?
On its website, the company says: “At Ben & Jerry’s we believe the science of global warming is settled. The question now, is what are we doing about it?”
Apparently, what they’re not doing about it is going organic. Even though the science is clear: non-organic, conventional and industrial agriculture play a huge role in climate change.
Not always on the wrong side of consumers.
Ben & Jerry’s gets it right sometimes. In 2006, the company stood up to its parent company when Unilever pushed for approval in the U.K. of a synthetically produced "anti-freeze" protein, using a genetic modification process. A Ben & Jerry’s spokesperson said: "We would not dream of including anything like that in our products. One of the biggest problems is that we are affected by Unilever's actions even though they are nothing to do with the way that we behave. The fact that we are not using this GM ingredient shows that we are not following all of their decisions."
To its credit, Ben & Jerry's was one of the first companies to label its ice cream as free of recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, a synthetic hormone made by Monsanto, and given to dairy cows to make them produce more milk. In 2008, the company opposed Monsanto when the biotech giant tried to ban rBGH-free labeling in several states.
And in 2010, Ben & Jerry’s stopped claiming that its ice cream was made from “all natural” ingredients. But only after the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asked to them remove the “all natural” claim because, as it turns out, many of those so-called natural ingredients were in fact heavily processed, very unnatural ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, alkalized cocoa and hydrogenated oil. Of course, a socially responsible company wouldn’t want to expose its customers, especially kids, to those ingredients in the first place, would it?
Ben & Jerry’s is capable of doing the right thing. And the right thing in this case is to contribute enough money to the Washington State ballot initiative and the Vermont Right to Know campaign to ensure we win in both states – especially after its parent company helped guarantee a GMO labeling loss in California.
Please sign the letter below. Tell Ben & Jerry’s You’re Boycotting their Products until They Throw some Dough into the Washington State ballot initiative and the Vermont GMO Labeling Campaign.