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GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: Hundreds rally against GMOs on Boulder County (USA) open space



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   HUNDREDS RALLY AGAINST GMOS ON BOULDER COUNTY OPEN SPACE

SOURCE:  Daily Camera, USA

AUTHOR:  Laura Snider

URL:     http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_18837604

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "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."

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HUNDREDS RALLY AGAINST GMOS ON BOULDER COUNTY OPEN SPACE

Only a few allowed to speak at county commissioners? meeting

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.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   RESPONDING, NOT REACTING, TO GMOS

SOURCE:  Daily Camera, USA

AUTHOR:  Dea Sloan

URL:     http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_18815059

DATE:    03.09.2011

SUMMARY: "As the debate heats up surrounding the Boulder County Open Space Cropland Policy there are a lot of concerns being voiced on the topic of GMOs -- some based in uncertainty, some based on misperceptions, some based on fear and some based on fact. Along with those concerns we are being exhorted to definitively react by just saying no to GMOs by a well-funded anti-GMO cadre. However, a knee-jerk reaction is not the best policy."

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RESPONDING, NOT REACTING, TO GMOS

Should we be using our Open Space cropland as a battleground in the war against the biotech industry and large agribusiness?

As the debate heats up surrounding the Boulder County Open Space Cropland Policy there are a lot of concerns being voiced on the topic of GMOs -- some based in uncertainty, some based on misperceptions, some based on fear and some based on fact. Along with those concerns we are being exhorted to definitively react by just saying no to GMOs by a well-funded anti-GMO cadre.

However, a knee-jerk reaction is not the best policy. Rather the issue calls for a thoughtful response from the citizens and policy makers of Boulder County that listens to the legitimate and relevant concerns but also asks: What is the best thing for our Open Space cropland?

When I first asked myself that question the answer was to ?go organic,? after all isn?t that what I do at the store when I want to avoid GMO foods? But here?s the rub, from an agricultural perspective the alternative to genetically-engineered (GE) crop varieties is conventional non-GE crops, not organic.

It?s unlikely that there is a single American farmer standing in the equivalent of the seed aisle and wondering whether to plant GE corn or organic corn. Organic may loom large in Boulder County, however across the nation organic accounts for only 0.5 percent of farmland and 3.7 percent of food dollars.

Over the past decade, farmers across the United States have turned away from the traditional varieties of crops like corn and sugar beets towards GE varieties not, as activists would have us believe, because they?ve been duped by Monsanto and just don?t know any better, but because GE crops allow them to soften the impact on the environment and to do more with less.

The seed technology, which looms so large in the eyes of anti-GMO activists, is a small part of the system that a farmer looks at when making cropping decisions. Ask a mainstream farmer about GE crops and he?ll explain how conservation tillage promotes soil health; he?ll explain how he is able to use water more efficiently; he?ll talk about using fewer pesticides; and he?ll tell you how he makes fewer tractor trips across a field mean which means he uses less fuel.

Dig a little deeper and you?d learn how he?s using crop rotation to minimize pests and what he?s doing to avoid the herbicide resistant weeds that are a side effect of the abuse of GE technology. Stick around long enough and you?ll hear stories about the resurgence in earthworms or birds or wild asparagus that has followed the introduction of GE crops.

There are other considerations too. Dr. Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for The Organic Center, had this advice when asked how we should balance the decision between GE and non-GE crops, ?You have to tick off the major impacts.? His list of impacts to be considered included the people applying the chemicals, consumers, the aquatic system, the birds and the bees.

Benbrook went on to highlight a legitimate concern about the rise of herbicide resistant weeds, ?If I had a magic wand and could go back to 1996, I would walk into the Monsanto board room and say, this Round Up Ready technology is really cool but you should never let it be used on more than 10 percent of the acres in any one area because you want to preserve it to be used for a long time.?

There is a lot here to consider and a lot to be gained, so rather than using our Open Space cropland as a battleground in the war against the biotech industry, a move that will be detrimental to our farmland, we should be taking a thoughtful stance that responds with answers to these questions: What is the best thing for our Open Space cropland? How do we respond to the legitimate and relevant concerns about GE technology? How do we promote a way of agriculture that is healthier for farmers, healthier for the environment and healthier for the rest of us?

Dea Sloan is a member of the Boulder Cropland Policy Advisory Group. This opinion is her own, and was not written on behalf of the group.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   BOULDER COUNCILMAN DECRIES GMOS ON LAND OWNED WITH COUNTY

SOURCE:  Daily Camera, USA

AUTHOR:  Laura Snider

URL:     http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_18792705

DATE:    30.08.2011

SUMMARY: "A Boulder leader is calling for a letter to Boulder County protesting the planting of genetically modified organisms on open space that is jointly owned by the city and county. [...] ?To me, this represents another extreme assertion of corporations on the genetic heritage of farming and agriculture,? said City Councilman Macon Cowles [...] ?This simply has to be resisted. We should not be opening public lands for these corporations to get their patented seeds upon.?"

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BOULDER COUNCILMAN DECRIES GMOS ON LAND OWNED WITH COUNTY

Two entities to discuss GMOs this fall

A Boulder leader is calling for a letter to Boulder County protesting the planting of genetically modified organisms on open space that is jointly owned by the city and county.

The city and county own several parcels of open space together, but only one -- the Imel property -- is now planted with GMO corn.

?To me, this represents another extreme assertion of corporations on the genetic heritage of farming and agriculture,? said City Councilman Macon Cowles, who wrote an e-mail to other council members this week asking them to bring up the issue at the next council meeting. ?This simply has to be resisted. We should not be opening public lands for these corporations to get their patented seeds upon.?

The city of Boulder banned the planting of GMO crops on city-owned land in the late 1990s, shortly after the agribusiness giant Monsanto released its first round of seeds that were genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.

?We have banned them since the outset,? said Mike Patton, director of the city?s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department.

The county began allowing genetically modified corn to be planted on its property in 2003. In 2009, the county considered expanding the allowed types of genetically modified crops to include sugar beets, but a public outcry caused the county commissioners to delay the decision.

In the meantime, the county?s Parks and Open Space Department is working on an overarching management plan for its croplands that will include a decision on whether GMOs should be allowed in the future.

When the city and county agree to purchase open space land together, one of the two governments is appointed as the lead management agency, which sets the rules for that particular property. And while many of the goals of the two open space departments align, some of their rules differ.

?They can allow dogs off leash with their dog tag system, which we would not allow,? said David Bell, the county?s agricultural division manager. ?In the same way, we deal with the cropping system our rules allow.?

In the case of the Imel property, which is 585 acres, the farmer who leases the land grows GMO corn and hay to provide feed for his cattle.

Patton said the city?s open space department has expressed concern about the Imel property in the past, but the county has not been willing to change the rules.

?We have agreed to disagree,? Patton said.

He also pointed out that the issue is not dead. The city and county have plans to discuss GMO crops and other issues relating to jointly owned property this fall.

?We?re going to have a broader conversation on all open space issues with the county, and GMOs will be on the table,? Patton said. ?We?ll work it out.?

Bell confirmed that the two departments have plans to talk this fall, and he said the timing fits in well with the county?s process of creating a management plan for its agricultural lands.

?We can use this cropland policy as an opportunity to have that conversation with the city,? he said.