County to phase out GMO crops on public land
December 12, 2016
Boulder County Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of a transition plan for phasing out the growing of GMO crops on public county land, with commissioners Deb Gardner and Elise Jones voting for, and commissioner Cindy Domenico voting against.
The vote was decided at the conclusion of a nearly 4-hour public hearing on Wednesday Nov. 30, and marks the end of a year-long, highly contentious debate in regards to the past, present and future of land-use policy and agriculture in Boulder County.
Currently there are two GMO crops being grown on public land in Boulder County, corn and sugar beets, representing 13 farmers and constituting about eight percent of the county’s leased cropland.
The transition plan will go into effect at the beginning of 2017, and gives farmers three years for the phasing out of GMO corn, and five years for sugar beets.
Nearly 60 people attended the hearing, and nearly 30 of those present gave public comment at the podium, representing a broad swathe of the various constituencies of Boulder County.
Some spoke in support of the ban; Linda Schlagel (Longmont) expressed “gratitude” for the county’s action against GMO’s, and Mary Mulry (unincorporated Boulder County) thanked the county commissioners for their “visionary” approach.
Others spoke against the ban, pointing to the lack of scientific evidence regarding the possible harm done by GMOs.
Mara Abbott (Boulder) referred to the component of the transition plan which calls for a sustainable agriculture research initiative, saying that given the available data it’s “unclear that banning GMOs supports the larger goals of sustainability.”
But the majority of comments given were unrelated to the ban itself, but rather directed in pointed criticism of the transition plan.
Elizabeth Black (Boulder) called the transition document “a ban but not a plan,” a sentiment echoed throughout the comment period.
Famuer Rasmussen Jr. (Longmont), one of the 13 farmers affected by the ban, spoke as a representative of the Farmers Alliance for Integrated Resources (FAIR), and said that the Commissioners “care more about activist dogma than science” and that their “decisions have made a joke out of public process.”
In their remarks the commissioners, along with staff from Boulder County Parks and Open Space, acknowledged that the transition plan as currently formulated lacks necessary detail, and that POS staff will need to work closely with each of the individual farmers affected by the ban in order to help them meet the logistical and financial difficulties entailed by the transition process.
Commissioner Domenico made note of how the county’s purchases of open space land have been implemented in co-operation with local farmers, in support of maintaining the agricultural heritage of Boulder County as well as an ethic of conservation.
Jason Condon (Lafayette), a farmer who runs a certified-organic farm on county land, and whose family has farmed in Boulder County since the 1860’s, commented on the lengthy time frames involved with implementing new crop rotations and the particular difficulties imposed by Boulder County’s specific qualities of soil and climate, calling attention to the fact that “the transition plan’s success depends on farmers.”