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POLICY & REGULATION: Boulder County (USA) group recommends allowing GM crops with limitations



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   BOULDER COUNTY GROUP RECOMMENDS ALLOWING GMOS WITH LIMITATIONS

SOURCE:  Daily Camera, USA

AUTHOR:  Laura Snider

URL:     http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_18941063

DATE:    21.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The majority of the members of a Boulder County agricultural advisory group agreed Tuesday night that genetically engineered crops should be allowed on open space if they meet a variety of conditions. Six of the nine volunteers serving on the county?s Cropland Policy Advisory Group -- the three conventional farmers and the three at-large members -- recommended that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, be approved if the crop can be shown to reduce the impacts of pesticides on people, water and soil quality. The recommendation also says the GMO crop must be able to increase yield, quality or profitability compared with conventional varieties. "

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BOULDER COUNTY GROUP RECOMMENDS ALLOWING GMOS WITH LIMITATIONS

 

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http://www.bouldercounty.org/live/environment/land/pages/croppolicypart.aspx

Cropland Policy: The Cropland Policy is designed to address the gap between the Parks and Open Space department?s daily management practices and the County Comprehensive Plan?s directives regarding the management of open space and agricultural land. The policy will outline the guiding principles that our staff will use to make management decisions on open space properties managed as cropland. By defining these principles, we hope to streamline decision-making processes during planning and make it easier for our tenants and county residents to understand the goals of our cropland program.

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The majority of the members of a Boulder County agricultural advisory group agreed Tuesday night that genetically engineered crops should be allowed on open space if they meet a variety of conditions.

Six of the nine volunteers serving on the county?s Cropland Policy Advisory Group -- the three conventional farmers and the three at-large members -- recommended that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, be approved if the crop can be shown to reduce the impacts of pesticides on people, water and soil quality.

The recommendation also says the GMO crop must be able to increase yield, quality or profitability compared with conventional varieties. Additionally, GMO crops must be compatible with a pest-management plan that includes an emphasis on using multiple tools to combat pests instead of relying on just one method, such as applying a single pesticide.

Group member Dea Sloan, who wrote a suggested policy that forms the backbone of the final recommendation, said she believes it?s important to have a moderate policy that supports farmers.

?I think what Boulder County needs is bigger than our genetically engineered policy,? she said. ?Boulder County needs to be farmer-friendly. I don?t think a hard-line ?yes? or a hard-line ?no? is farmer-friendly.?

The policy recommended by Sloan -- and approved by the majority after some tweaks were made -- opens by saying that, in light of the controversy over the possible impacts of genetically engineered crops, Boulder County will only allow such crops when it can be demonstrated that the benefits will outweigh the risks.

The final power to approve the crops would rest with the staff of the Parks and Open Space Department, but the recommended policy also asks staffers to re-evaluate any approved GMOs every five years.

The two organic farmers on the Cropland Policy Advisory Group and the representative of Aurora Organic Dairy all favored a policy that would have outlawed GMO crops on agricultural land owned by the county. Their preferred plan would also have established a goal of having 50 percent of the county?s croplands farmed organically by 2025.

Group member Ewell Culbertson, owner of Pachamama Organic Farm, said he believes his position is supported by the majority of people in the county.

?If you look at the county, there?s an overwhelming opposition to this,? he said. ?It?s going to go on forever until this thing is prohibited on county lands -- it?s just going to be like this year after year.?

Genetically modified corn has been allowed on county-owned land since 2003. But the recent controversy over GMO crops erupted in 2009 after six farmers who lease land from the county asked for permission to plant sugar beet seeds that had been engineered to resist the pesticide Roundup.

After a summer of heated debate and packed public hearings, the Boulder County commissioners decided in August 2009 to delay making a decision on GMO sugar beets until the open space department had crafted an overarching Cropland Policy. Since February, the advisory group has been meeting to craft a recommendation for what that policy should look like, including whether GMOs should be allowed.

The group?s final recommendation -- which will include a wide variety of policies ranging from water use to soil health to pest management -- is scheduled to be finished in October.

The group?s recommendations will be reviewed by two county boards -- the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee and the Food and Agriculture Policy Council -- before the county commissioners make a final decision.

The Cropland Policy Advisory Group?s final report will also include the opinion of the minority, according to Ron Stewart, director of the open space department.

At Tuesday?s meeting, group member Richard Andrews, who runs Andrews Organic Farm, said he would work on creating a draft for the minority opinion on GMOs. Andrews said his intention is to provide a full accounting of the evidence that shows GMOs are risky.

?We haven?t had an honest, full or complete evaluation of what we?re talking about,? he said. ?We don?t know what we?re doing with GMOs because it?s such a complex science. We don?t know what the secondary effects are or the tertiary effects way down the line. There is a daisy chain of effects that happen every time you impose something new on the environment.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GUEST OPINION: A QUARTER CENTURY OF GM CROPS

SOURCE:  Daily Camera, USA

AUTHOR:  Andrew Staehelin

URL:     http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_18912267

DATE:    18.09.2011

SUMMARY: "the accumulated land area planted with genetically engineered crops has grown to exceed 2.5 billion acres, providing food for 2 billion people without causing a single death. These crops have been planted by 15 million farmers in over 30 countries that are home to 60 percent of the world population. This remarkable success has occurred despite the Frankenfoods label, the concerted efforts of tens of thousands of anti-GM crop activists, and the continuing anti-GM food advertising campaigns of the $25 billion organic food industry."

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GUEST OPINION: A QUARTER CENTURY OF GM CROPS

Andrew Staehelin is a professor emeritus of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Nearly 25 years ago the first genetically modified (GM) crop (tomato) was planted in open air. Since then, the accumulated land area planted with genetically engineered crops has grown to exceed 2.5 billion acres, providing food for 2 billion people without causing a single death. These crops have been planted by 15 million farmers in over 30 countries that are home to 60 percent of the world population. This remarkable success has occurred despite the Frankenfoods label, the concerted efforts of tens of thousands of anti-GM crop activists, and the continuing anti-GM food advertising campaigns of the $25 billion organic food industry.

Why have GM crops been so successful? Modern genetic engineering allows plant breeders to produce improved crops with novel properties with greater precision and much faster (in three versus 10 years) than with traditional breeding methods. GM foods have also been proven to be as safe and as healthy as those produced by organic and traditional farmers (documented in reports of the United States and other National Academies and Royal Societies). The planting of GM crops has been shown to have major environmental benefits aside from producing more food per acre. These benefits include reduced use of pesticides, reduced soil erosion, reduced water losses, less CO2 emission, and cleaner water supplies. The development of insect resistance to the Bt toxins in Bt-corn is a problem that is being addressed by plant breeders. Interestingly, the first Bt resistant insects arose from Bt-toxin applications on an organic farm. The development of weeds resistant to the herbicide glyphosate
  (Roundup Ready crops) is another manageable problem. No show-stopping events relating to GM crops have been identified to date.

Plant genetic engineering continues to evolve. Instead of using a bacterium or a gene gun to insert DNA into cells, plant breeders can simply dip plant shoots into a DNA solution and the plants do the rest. The DNA of tumor-inducing plasmids required for integrating new genes into plant chromosomes can be substituted by native plant transfer DNAs. Similarly, marker genes can be removed after selection of the transformed cells, and gene activity can be regulated by plant promoters instead of viral promoters. Genetic engineering is now capable of both adding new genes and silencing others (e.g. allergens, viral proteins required for virus replication). Finally, molecular techniques are being used to speed up the selection of seedlings produced by traditional plant crosses.

In light of the impressive safety record of GM crops, one has to wonder what keeps the anti-GM crop rhetoric alive? The answer is simple: money that is used to maintain fear. The anti-GM crop movement can be traced to the lack of public understanding of the process of genetic engineering when the first GM foods were introduced without proper education. The tabloid press made money with headlines such as The mad forces of genetic darkness, Greenpeace made headlines by raiding experimental farm plots, and the organic food industry increased their profits by first generating food scare campaigns and then promoting their products as being free of GM products. Today, the GM food-free slogan is still at the forefront of the organic food industry?s marketing campaigns. Ironically, organic farmers in Hawaii are now planting their papaya orchards as close as possible to GM papaya to protect their fruit from papaya ringspot virus, and organic corn products have been found to contain 1,
 000-fold higher concentrations of birth defect -- and cancer-causing fumonisin toxins than GM corn.

Because rice is the staple food of over 2 billion people, the release of golden rice in 2013 will further cement the importance of GM crops for human nutrition. This rice produces vitamin A precursor molecules and has the potential of preventing 1 to 2 million vitamin A-deficiency deaths and 500,000 cases of child blindness per year. The 2012 release of GM hybrid corn (maize) expressing eight new traits, including drought resistance, highlights the importance of genetic engineering for modern plant breeding. Now, forward-looking organic farmers want to plant superior GM crop varieties. However, they are being opposed by the organic food industry, which wants to continue to use anti-GM food campaigns to sell its products.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GROUP TO DECIDE ON GMOS THIS WEEK

SOURCE:  Boulder Weekly, USA

AUTHOR:  Jefferson Dodge

URL:     http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-6453-group-to-decide-on-gmos-this-week.html

DATE:    15.09.2011

SUMMARY: "A county cropland advisory group is poised to make its final decision on the use of genetically engineered crops on open space this week. [...] CPAG, which was appointed by the county commissioners after an outcry over a proposal to plant genetically engineered sugar beets two years ago, has been meeting since February to create recommendations for the commissioners to consider in forming a new comprehensive cropland policy."

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GROUP TO DECIDE ON GMOS THIS WEEK

A county cropland advisory group is poised to make its final decision on the use of genetically engineered crops on open space this week.

The nine-member Cropland Policy Advisory Group (CPAG) is scheduled to discuss the topic for the final time at a 5:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in the Parks and Open Space Building in Longmont, at 5201 St. Vrain Rd.

CPAG, which was appointed by the county commissioners after an outcry over a proposal to plant genetically engineered sugar beets two years ago, has been meeting since February to create recommendations for the commissioners to consider in forming a new comprehensive cropland policy.

On Aug. 17, the last time the group discussed its policy recommendations for using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on county open space, only two of the nine members spoke in favor of an outright ban on GMOs. Another two members said they were interested in the possibility of decreasing the use of GMOs on county land.

The majority of the group appears to be solidly in the camp of ?co-existence,? an arrangement in which organic, traditional and GMO farmers are permitted to use open space for their crops as long as they undergo a county approval process and do their best to prevent the spread of negative impacts to their neighbors.

The apparent GMO-tolerant lean has some anti-GMO activists speculating about possible conspiracies, from GMO manufacturing giant Monsantofunded infiltrations to a board of county commissioners that could have stacked the deck to favor GMOs.

But County Commissioner Will Toor says nothing could be further from the truth.

?There is no conspiracy here,? he says. ?I?ve never heard from anybody at Monsanto.?

Toor says that when the board appointed CPAG, the commissioners tried to strike a balance, with three organic farming representatives, three conventional farmers, and three openminded, thoughtful people who didn?t have a strong opinion either way.

?That?s just not the way that it works,? he says of the notion that the commissioners stacked the deck. ?If we had wanted to do that, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to make a decision on sugar beets two years ago.?

CPAG member and organic farmer Ewell Culbertson told Boulder Weekly that he was never asked about his stance on GMOs when he was interviewed by the commissioners. Toor says the board was well aware of Culbertson?s anti-GMO stance, though.

Culbertson points out that CPAG is only one of many inputs the commissioners will consider when making their decision on GMOs.

Toor agrees, saying those inputs include the Food and Agriculture Policy Council, the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee, public comment periods, county staff recommendations, a literature review and the commissioners? own scientific research.

When asked how much weight CPAG?s recommendations will carry, Toor says that for him, it will come down to the quality of the arguments and analysis supporting all of the recommendations the board receives.

?I think it?s too early in the process to say where I?m going to come down, and I can?t speak for my colleagues,? he says. ?I do think it is a much more complicated issue than I originally anticipated it to be.?

An informal poll conducted this week on the Pearl Street Mall and the CU-Boulder campus revealed that more than half of the people contacted did not know what GMOs are.

?[GMOs] reside in guts and cause major increases in food allergies and immune deficiencies,? Christian Lepanto of Boulder told Boulder Weekly on Sept. 12. ?The problem is a Frankenstein that will not easily be put down. We?re opening a Pandora?s box.?

Blair Madole contributed to this report.