Originally published by Daily Camera
April 14th, 2017
By John Fryar
Boulder County will phase out the cultivation of genetically modified corn and sugar beets and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on county-owned farmland.
The county commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday on a plan that would ban GMO corn by the end of 2019 and sugar beets by the end of 2021, and neonicotinoids, believed to be toxic to bees, within five years.
The plan includes a requirement that the county staff work with each of Boulder County’s tenant farmers to determine the financial risk of the transition to each farmer, and to help find ways to minimize potential negative impacts.
It leaves open the possibility that in the future, Boulder County will consider allowing genetically engineered crops with traits that do not rely on the use of pesticides.
It also notes the county’s intent to fund a sustainable-agriculture research facility. Experiments there could include comparisons of a variety of production methods, including technologies associated with the growing of GMO crops.
Commissioners Elise Jones and Deb Gardner voted for the latest version of the transition plan — affirming their support of last year’s draft version — as well as the related amendment to Boulder County’s Cropland Policy that applies to all agriculture on county-owned land. Commissioner Cindy Domenico dissented.
“Let’s acknowledge: This is not an easy issue; it’s not a simple one,” said Jones, adding that she is not concerned about genetically engineered crops per se but the effects of the pesticides used on some GE crops.
Said Gardner about her continued support for the phasing out of GMO crops: "I've been pretty consistent with what I've said and thought over this issue, and that hasn't changed over time."
Domenico, however, continued to oppose the timetable for the phaseout mandates.
"The science on GE crops is not settled," Domenico said, adding that she hasn't seen scientific support for the dangers that anti-GMO activists claim those crops pose.
The commissioners' Thursday meeting was open to the public and was attended by a handful of observers but did not include a renewed public-hearing opportunity for people to testify about the transition plan.
One of those attending the meeting was Rich Koopmann, executive director of the Farmers Alliance for Integrated Resources. A number of that organization's members are tenant farmers who have been growing previously-permitted GMO corn and sugar beets on county-owned land. The organization had argued that the county engage in more scientific research before ordering an end to growing such crops.
Koopmann said after Thursday's meeting that the 2-1 vote for the phaseout "is an ideology-based decision, and not a science one."
He said, "Our farmers are science-based" in their crop choices and production techniques. "That's how they make their decisions."