On February 29, 2016, leaders from Western Sugar Cooperative addressed the Boulder County Commissioners regarding growing genetically modified (GM) crops on county open space. Rebecca Larson (left), Research Agronomist, explained how GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply, and that independently published peer-reviewed experiments show GMOs to be safe or safer than conventional and organic counterparts. She went on to explain how GM crops have positive implications for the environment that include improved herbicide usage, better plant health, better soil and water conservation, reduced Greenhouse Gases, and reduced crop storage losses. Larson also explained what the US agricultural system would be like without GMOs: a wholesale move to organic farming would require 109M more acres to produce the same amount of food- that’s equal to all parkland and wildland in lower 48 states and 1.8 times all urban area in the nation. Her passion for this issue and dedication to educating uninformed consumers lead her to be one of the most powerful and dynamic speakers of the evening. She was followed by Jason Bridges (right), SVP and CFO of Western Sugar Cooperative, who explained some of the benefits GM crops have brought to our growers. Crop yields are up 30%, while using 50% less water and 50% less fuel. These facts have been documented through the Parks and Open Space Study and Western Sugar’s own comprehensive sustainability program. Bridges noted that the Cooperative went from using up to 13 different weed control chemistries down to one, which has proven much safer for the growers, their families, and the environment. Larson and Bridges both argued that farmers should not be told how they can farm, but rather given the choice to cultivate GM crops. Later that evening, Rodney Perry, President and CEO, reiterated the points made by both Larson and Bridges regarding sustainability, environmental long-term impacts, and the farmers’ freedom of choice. Perry left the commissioners of Boulder County with much to think about before they make their final decision.
The Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) will meet again on March 15th, and the commissioners will meet again on March 17th, however, it is doubtful that a firm decision will be made until a later date. We understand that this battle is far from over, with activists continuing to advance their agenda by means of fear instead of fact, but we sincerely hope the commissioners will allow science to prevail.