Group issues alternate crop policy, without the GMOs

Jefferson Dodge | Boulder Weekly

Dismayed by a county advisory group’s recommendation to allow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be grown on open space, this week the group GMKnow is releasing an alternate cropland policy for the county commissioners to consider.

The Cropland Policy Advisory Group (CPAG) is poised to present its GMO-tolerant policy at a meeting on Tuesday that begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Longmont Conference Center, 1850 Industrial Circle.

But at the same meeting, GMKnow founders Mary and Scott Smith will present their own version, which they are calling the “Citizens Cropland Policy.” It is expected to be posted at on Sunday.

CPAG, which was appointed by the county commissioners after an outcry over a proposal to plant genetically engineered sugar beets more than two years ago, has been meeting since February to create recommendations for the commissioners to consider in forming a new comprehensive cropland policy. The group voted 6-3 in September to take a “good neighbor” position in its draft, allowing for organic, conventional and GMO crops to co-exist on county-owned open space. The commissioners are not expected to make a final decision on the policy until early 2012.

At Tuesday’s meeting, CPAG will present its version of the cropland policy to two other county advisory groups: the Food and Agriculture Policy Council and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Commission. Those two groups will then meet on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to decide whether they endorse the CPAG policy.

But Scott Smith questions why those two groups are being given so little time to digest the policy before having to take a stand on it.

“This has been a nine-month process, and it gets this treatment?” he asks.

The Smiths are hoping that hundreds of people show up to Tuesday’s meeting, where there will be a public comment period in which speakers will be given up to three minutes each to share their views. In addition, GMKnow members have collected thousands of signatures on a petition opposing GMOs on the taxpayer-funded land.

They charge that much of the research done by CPAG member Richard Andrews, an organic farmer and one of those opposed to GMOs on county land, was left out of the minority report in the CPAG policy, and that the document contains supporting material that is little more than propaganda for corporate GMO powerhouse Monsanto.

“They’ve seeded the policy with GMO documents,” Mary Smith says. “It’s insulting is what it is.”

Scott Smith wonders why such concessions are being made for 70 farmers, who represent only a tiny fraction of the county’s population, when surveys show that the majority of residents oppose having GMOs on county open space.

He and his wife propose using county agricultural land to produce natural foods and using more of it locally, so that the county can be self-sufficient and food-independent. They say their Citizens Cropland Policy contains Andrews’ research, some recommendations from the Food and Agriculture Policy Council, among other materials, all of which they say has been vetted by leading experts in the field.

According to Mary Smith, by statute the county can’t hold a binding vote in the form of a ballot measure to decide the GMO issue because it’s not a home-rule county, but there are other possible avenues for local citizens to exert control over the matter if the commissioners opt for a GMO-tolerant policy. She lists recalling commissioners and using the referendum process to pull open space tax funding among those options.

She says the commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the cropland policy for Dec. 8.