Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Aurelia Pollard

Farmers request more research before county phases out GMOs


November 4, 2016

The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) held a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 27 to discuss the transition plan for genetically-engineered crops (GE) on county open space.

The discussion started with an overview from staff member and Agricultural Resources Manager Jeff Moline, who said the meeting was the first presentation of the plan to phase out genetically-modified crops (GMO).

Moline said the county’s goal is to keep farmers growing food, remain stewards of open space, encompass sustainability, and provide economic success and sustain production. According to the plan, GE corn will be allowed for the next three years starting in 2017 and GE beets will be allowed for the next five years beginning in 2017, on leased land that is owned by the county.

Local farmers told the committee there isn’t enough scientific data or details in the plan. The committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to county commissioners on Nov. 17.

“How do you transition when there’s not been any research performed to learn what we need to transition to?” asked Vicki Schlagal, whose husband and son run a farm in Longmont.

Schlagel said conventional farmers, such as her family, work hard to produce sustainable crops and have prided themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. “No one has shown us local data to show what alternative techniques will even be successful in Boulder County,” she said.

Some POSAC members also had questions about the lack of data and what this transition would actually look like. “With the transition to conventional crops and pesticides on those crops, [are] there parts to this plan that are also going to address what happens after we phase out of GE, and conventional crops are still using certain types of pesticides?” Jean Archuleta asked. “Is there going to be a plan for that?”

Committee members were also concerned about the short amount of time they have before they make their recommendations to the Boulder County Commissioners.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something good did come from this?” committee member Sue Cass mused. “I think that’s what most of us would like to have happen. But I get the sense right now where we are that we’re going to be asked to recommend this in three weeks to Boulder County Commissioners—I’m not sure we can get there in three weeks.”

Another local farmer, Rodney Perry, voiced his concerns by saying, “I think it’s clear that there needs to be specifics about and controls for going to organic. Because all you’re going to do is pollute the environment dramatically over using GE crops. Organic is a huge industry based on selling fear. And it’s worse for the environment and people.”

Committee Chairman Eric Hozempa reminded the public that POSAC previously voted 5-3 to continue allowing GMO corn and sugar beets. However, he stated that they need to find out what the cost will be on the transition before they can make their recommendations.

Farmer Paul Schlagel, Vicki Schlagel’s husband, also spoke at the meeting to represent many other growers who couldn’t make it because of the busy harvest season. “We need to do the research first,” he said. “It’s very hard to critique the transition plan without knowing what the research is.

“This is a complicated mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he added, “and if we do not go out and find out what really works in Boulder County, we need to reevaluate where we’re going.”

Archuleta believes both farmers and those who are against pesticides need to come together to give their input on this plan for it to progress successfully, and not be hurried.

“It does seem a big rush to have this three-page plan be the transition that should have taken at least five years,” Archuleta said. “We had some really good input from people tonight, but I think there’s a lot more input from the farming community and for the people who are concerned about pesticides. All of the partners on our land want what’s best for our land. In order to be fair to everyone and everything, we need to not rush this plan.”

By the end of the meeting, POSAC members expressed their desire to have county staff spend as much as an extra three months gathering more information for the transition plan.


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