Tell Ben & Jerry's: 'Roundup-Ready' Ice Cream Is Not 'Natural,' or 'Socially Responsible.' Go Organic!

It’s official. Ten of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tested positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

It’s the latest in a long line of complaints against the ice cream brand that claims its social mission “seeks to meet human needs and eliminate the injustices in our local, national and international communities,” and that its focus is “on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy: Roundup-Ready Ice Cream is neither ‘natural’ nor ‘socially responsible.’ Go 100% Organic! 

Roundup Ready Ben and Jerrys ice cream with cows on a sunny grass pasture

After you sign the petition, call Ben & Jerry’s (802-846-1500) and ask the company to stop greenwashing and go organic. Then post on Ben & Jerry’s Facebook page and tweet this.

Ben & Jerry’s, the $1.5-billion subsidiary of London-based Unilever (sales of $60 billion), has no rival when it comes to scamming consumers. Behind the iconic ice cream brand’s greenwashed fa├žade lies the tale of a company that built its mega-profitable empire on the back of a #dirtydairy industry that produces contaminated food, poisons Vermont’s waterways, abuses animals, exploits workers, bankrupts farmers and contributes to global warming by supporting GMO monoculture agriculture that strips the soil of its ability to draw down and sequester carbon.

For 20 years, activists have played nice with Ben & Jerry’s, politely making the case that the company should live up to its claims of “social responsibility” and “respect for the Earth.” But no more, says Michael Colby, former editor of the Food & Water Journal and co-founder of Regeneration Vermont. In his recent article, “Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes,” Colby walks readers through Ben & Jerry’s history of empty promises to clean up its act.

Describing early efforts to convince Ben & Jerry’s to go organic, Colby writes

We were told by Ben himself, after a year’s worth of meetings and even an offer of a job to me “to work with us instead of going after us,” that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to “maximize profits.” Quick, throw another tie-dyed shirt to the crowd! Or launch a new flavor! Send some ice cream to the schools! Anything, just get the attention off of what Ben & Jerry’s is doing to its homeland, and our homeland – all to maximize its profits.

Decades later, still no transition to organic—despite this statement on the company website from former CEO Jostein Solheim: “My mantra that I've repeated a hundred times since starting at Ben & Jerry's is: ‘Change is a wonderful thing.’"

Who pays for all those Ben & Jerry’s “maximized profits”? Consumers, Vermont taxpayers, farmers and farmworkers. By refusing to transition to organic, or to even remotely live up to its claims of “social responsibility,” Ben & Jerry’s is responsible for:

• Running Vermont family farms out of business. Despite the pretty pictures of happy cows, Vermont’s dairy industry is anything but pretty—in fact it’s in a downward spiral. According to a December 2016 article by Will Allen and Michael Colby, Vermont’s nonorganic (conventional) dairy farmers are forced to sell their milk at a loss. Since Ben & Jerry’s founding in 1978, nearly 3,000 dairy-farm families in Vermont have been forced off the land, with only about 800 remaining today, says Colby. By supporting farmers’ transitions to organic, and paying a fair price for organic milk, Ben & Jerry’s could restore Vermont’s once-thriving dairy industry.

• Polluting Vermont’s waterways. Vermont taxpayers face a $2-billion bill for cleaning up the state’s polluted waterways, especially Lake Champlain, the #DirtyDairy’s dumping ground for animal wastes, herbicides, chemical fertilizer, and other toxins. Colby writes:

State officials estimate conservatively that the pollution from the mega-dairy farms like those supplying Ben & Jerry’s has caused at least half of the damage. Entire sections of Lake Champlain are unswimmable, properties have been devalued, aquatic life is suffering, and drinking water is testing positive for – surprise, surprise — toxins like atrazine and glyphosate (aka: Monsanto’s Roundup), both used abundantly on Vermont’s dairy-destined cornfields.

• Abusing animals. Industrial dairy farming looks nothing like the fake images on milk cartons, of happy cows grazing on lush green pastures. Allen and Colby report that the average life expectancy of a dairy cow, when allowed to live as they are genetically wired—on grass and fresh air—is about 20 years. Today, most industrial dairy cows are processed into hamburger before they get to the age of 6. The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) says dairy cows are dying prematurely from painful and preventable causes like udder infections (mastitis), respiratory problems, hoof infections, leg injuries and diarrhea, all directly attributable to the conditions geared toward maximizing milk production at the expense of the cow’s health.

• Exploiting farmworkers. Ben & Jerry’s claims of support for Migrant Justice’s “Dairy with Dignity” program ring hollow. According to the Migrant Justice website, Ben & Jerry’s promised to “work with Migrant Justice towards a written agreement . . . to adopt Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Program within Ben & Jerry’s Northeast dairy supply chain.” So far, Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t fulfilled that promise because, company officials say, they’re unable to get its supplier (of non-organic milk), St. Alban’s Co-Op, to get on board with the program. 

• Contributing to global warming. More than 92,000 acres of Vermont farmland is planted in GMO feed corn, 96 percent of which is GMO. All that GMO corn has led to a huge increase in the use of herbicides and fertilizers, which destroy soil health, which in turn prevents the soil from drawing down and sequestering carbon. Still, Ben & Jerry’s pretends to care about global warming. In 2015, the company debuted a new flavor, “Save our Swirled,” intended to raise awareness of climate change. The New York Times reported

The labels are illustrated with cows perched atop melting icebergs, and Ben & Jerry’s is urging customers to lobby government leaders to embrace clean-energy standards The “Save our Swirled” flavor is no longer available according to a Ben & Jerry’s website search, but Ben & Jerry’s still touts its commitment to fighting climate change.

• Putting human health at risk. Polluted waterways, degenerated soil, exploitation of farmworkers and global warming all threaten human health. So do the massive amounts of Roundup, atrazine and metolachlor—all carcinogens and endocrine disruptors—that not only poison the environment, but, at least in the case of Roundup, also poison Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The company will no doubt argue that the amount of Roundup in its ice cream is “safe.” But there is a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.

It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to come clean.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy: Roundup-Ready Ice Cream is neither ‘natural’ nor ‘socially responsible.’ Go 100% Organic!

After you sign the petition, call Ben & Jerry’s (802-846-1500) and ask the company to stop greenwashing and go organic. Then post on Ben & Jerry’s Facebook page and tweet this.

Sign the Petition


To: Matthew McCarthy, CEO, Ben & Jerry’s

Dear Mr. McCarthy,

It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to stop deceiving consumers and to go organic.

The myth of Vermont’s happy cows and bucolic farms has been busted. The fact is, Vermont’s dairy industry is poisoning the environment, causing unnecessary pain and suffering for dairy cows, and bankrupting Vermont’s dairy farmers.

It’s great that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream doesn’t use GMO ingredients. But who are you kidding? Vermont fields are awash in dangerous chemicals used to grow acres and acres of GMO animal feed. I suspect that cows fed GMO feed pass those chemicals along in their milk, in one form or another—and that means those chemicals are likely in the ice cream you sell.

The fact is, you’ve been greenwashing the Ben & Jerry’s brand for years. It’s time to recognize that your support of Vermont’s #dirtydairy industry is just plain wrong. 

While Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t market its ice cream as “natural,” the company creates the perception that the brand belongs in that category by stating that all the ingredients are GMO-free—even though the cows that produce the milk are fed GMO feed. This marketing tactic contributes to the fact that sales of “natural” products ($49B/yr) exceed sales of certified organic products ($43.B/yr).

If the iconic Ben & Jerry’s brand were to go 100-percent organic, you could lead the nation in transitioning to an agricultural model that improves human, animal and soil health, combats climate change, provides a fair living to farmers and grows the market for organics.

As a consumer, I care about more than just the GMO ingredients in my food. I also care about the ecological destruction caused by the proliferation of GMO monoculture crops. So I won’t be buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream until you announce that the company will stop supporting Monsanto and the makers of atrazine and other chemicals.

Thank you.