Is Colorado’s Boulder County paving the way for our country to be free of GMOs and toxic insecticides? It sure looks like it; the county has made headlines with their recent banning of certain GMO crops from being grown on county-owned land. And they’ve even banned the use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) on the land, too.
Boulder County announced recently that they would be phasing out the cultivation of GMO corn and sugar beets on county-owned land. The transition plans for GM corn will have them banned completely by the end of 2019, and the cultivation of GM sugar beets will see its final days by the conclusion of 2021. The use of neonics on county properties will also be phased out over the next five years.
Neonics have been especially controversial due to their apparent role in the decimation of bee populations across the country. Neonics have become known for their disastrous effects on bees; even the EPA recently admitted that the popular insecticides are harming the much-needed pollinator species. A report from the federal agency finally acknowledged what beekeepers had been saying for decades: Neonics weaken, disorient, and eventually kill honeybees.
EcoWatch reports that commissioners voted 2 to 1 to approve these most recent transition plans. Genetically modified corn and sugar beets are currently the only GM crops being grown on county-owned land in Boulder. And in 2015, they accounted for 1200 acres — or about 8 percent — of the county’s leased open spaces.
And as Daily Camera reports, “The plan now also includes a requirement that, beginning next January, the county Parks and Open Space Department produce an annual report on progress toward implementing the GMO transition policies, with annual public hearings by the commissioners on that report and the progress of the transition.”
County staff will also be required to work with each of Boulder County’s tenant farmers to determine what financial risks are imposed by the transition to each farmer, and to help the farmers find ways to circumvent or reduce the severity of any potential negative consequences.
While it all sounds well and good, Boulder County’s current plan still leaves room for other GMO crops to be grown in the future, provided that they don’t require pesticides for cultivation. Commissioner Elise Jones explained that while she is not concerned about the safety of GMO crops, she is concerned about the pesticides used to rear them.
Some continue to question the validity of concerns about GMO crops, like commissioner Cindy Domenico. “The science on GE crops is not settled,” Domenico said, noting that she personally had not seen “scientific support” for the threats posed by GMO crops.
While studies on the long-term effects GM crops will have on humans and the environment are rather lacking, there are several valid concerns about these genetically altered crops. For example, GM crops are not immune to cross-pollination — which means that once a GM crop is planted, it could potentially contaminate non-GM crops and contaminate the gene pool of our food supply. Furthermore, most GM crops are engineered to withstand the harsh herbicides and pesticides used on them — and these compounds are known to harm the surrounding environment, and the creatures that live in it. A recent report from the UN revealed hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of pesticide poisoning.
One of the biggest myths about GM crops is that they somehow produce more food — but studies have shown that this is simply not true: GM farming does not increase harvest yields at all, actually.
There are countless concerns and questions about the long-term and short-term safety and viability of GMO crops. And while the ban being placed in Boulder County may not be perfect, it is at least a step in the right direction. (RELATED: Keep up with the latest news on GMO crops at GMO.news)