(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2011) A citizen advisory council in Boulder County, Colorado is preparing to decide on whether or not to recommend that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be banned from county lands. The County’s Croplands Policy Advisory Group will meet on Wednesday, August 10 (agenda packet here) to decide if they want farmers who plant their crops on county land to be able to be able to grow crops that have been genetically modified. With organic farmers around the country worried about potential contamination of their crops with GMO pollen following a number of recent regulatory decisions, the citizen council model may represent a good way for communities to come together and find a solution.
Currently, many farmers grow on land owned by the county, and some want to plant GMOs to stay competitive with other farmers around the country. However, some citizens of the county are concerned about the widespread use of GMOs and the increased reliance on agricultural chemicals that usually accompanies them. Organic farmers in the area are also very worried. Recent decisions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have led to the deregulation of several genetically engineered varieties of common crops, including alfalfa and sugar beets. Coupled with the already-pervasive planting of such GMOs as Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, organic farmers feel that they are being increasingly marginalized and put at risk of potential financial devastation should their crops be contaminated with GMO pollen.
The Croplands Policy Advisory Group has been reviewing and making recommendations on subjects related to agriculture on county lands for the past several months. It was originally formed to assist the county’s Parks and Open Space Department in crafting a plan to increase the sustainability of agriculture on public lands. The group is composed of nine members from the community: three conventional farmers, three organic farmers, and three at-large community members. As an advisory group, it does not have any actual decision making power, but rather makes recommendations, which, along with those from the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee and Food and Agriculture Policy Council, will be finally decided upon by the Boulder County Commissioners. The advisory group has decided upon a range of agricultural issues such as water use, soil health, pesticides, and fertilizers, but the GMO issue has become the most hotly debated of them.
GMOs have been particularly contentious in Boulder County. According to the Daily Camera, in 2009, when several area farmers asked permission to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets, there was an outcry among local citizens which led the county commissioners to delay action until the Parks and Open Space Department developed a sustainable agriculture plan for county lands.
The Boulder area has long been a national leader in sustainable approaches to the management of public lands. The City of Boulder has a comprehensive integrated pest management program to deal with weeds and insects on city land and the city recently discontinued the use of Roundup (glyphosate) in public places.
The only other municipalities in the United States to ban GMOs have been the California counties of Mendocino, Trinity, and Marin. Those bans were different, however, in that they banned the use of GMOs on all lands within the county, not only public lands. Throughout the rest of the country, GMOs make up about 75% of most major field crops.
To learn more about genetic engineering, visit our program page.
Source: Daily Camera