Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Hundreds rally against GMOs on Boulder County open space
By Laura Snider, Camera Staff Writer
Boulder Daily Camera
September 06, 2011
Hundreds of people holding signs and wearing pins and stickers — some saying, “Hey GMOs, stop trying to get in my plants” — gathered on the lawn of the Boulder County Courthouse on Tuesday to support banning genetically modified crops on open space land.
Boulder County is in the process of crafting a management plan for the 18,000 acres of cropland overseen by the open space department, which will include a policy on whether to allow genetically modified crops. A nine-member volunteer advisory panel has been meeting since February to craft a set of recommendations.
And while members of the Cropland Policy Advisory Group represent a range of views — some are organic farmers, some are conventional farmers and others are at-large community members — time has not been blocked off at their twice-monthly meetings to take input from the public.
“People feel muzzled,” said rally organizer Mary VonBreck, the campaign manager for GMO Free Boulder. “They haven’t been allowed to speak to the commissioners. … We’re done waiting, and we’re going to be heard.”
Rally participants also packed the county commissioners’ hearing room on the third floor of the county courthouse at 11:30 a.m. for the open public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting. The commissioners host the open comment once a month for 30 minutes.
“The entire country looks to us as an example of sustainability,” said Boulder resident Dale Durland. “We need a cropland policy that reflects that.”
More than 20 people signed up to speak against genetically modified crops, but only a handful made it under the timeline. But Commissioner Ben Pearlman promised the crowd that there will be ample opportunity for public feedback on GMOs in the future.
“There will be a number of other opportunities to speak to us directly,” he said. “We’re not going to make a decision about this for a fair number of months.”
The county commissioners will make the final decision on what the Cropland Policy will look like, but the draft document — which is scheduled to be completed by the Cropland Policy Advisory Group in October — will be considered first by the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee and the Food and Agriculture Policy Council.
The current controversy over whether GMO crops should be grown on county-owned land grew out of a request made in 2008 by six farmers who lease land from the county.
The farmers asked the county for permission to grow GMO sugar beets. They argued that they needed to grow the seeds to remain competitive in the agricultural markets and that the GMO sugar beets would require less herbicide use overall.
GMO opponents have argued that genetically engineered crops could contaminate neighboring organic farms and that a decision to allow GMOs on open space would hurt Boulder’s image as an important hub for the natural food industry.
The rally, which lasted for three hours, was supported by Alfalfa’s grocery store.
“We feel like we consider ourselves — because we’re community-based — to be a resource for education in the community,” said Dallas Pederson, assistant store director.
Alfalfa’s is in the process of figuring out which products in its store contain GMOs, which are not required to be labeled, and either pulling them from the shelves or labeling them at the store, Pederson said.
“Our efforts with GMOs is to have total transparency in our products and labeling,” he said.
Boulder resident Jessica Van Antwerp said she came to the rally because she is concerned about the large corporations that create GMO seeds, such as Monsanto, having control over the country’s food supply.
“When you start messing with people’s food, you start messing with the foundation of life,” said Van Antwerp.