Boulder County Commissioners are currently debating over whether to allow farmers to grow genetically engineered sugar beets on public land. The decision ultimately falls into the hands of three Boulder County Commissioners who seem to be favoring the biotech seed industry, despite the request of constituents; 71 percent of Boulder residents polled do not want GMOs planted on public lands. Althought the public is showing up in droves to be heard, it appears even Boulder's local newspaper is in opposition to the majority. (I released New Hope Natural Media's stance on this issue earlier this month).
The public commenting period ended Friday, Dec. 16. They will announce the final decision tomorrow, Dec. 20.
But several Boulder-based thought leaders in organic and food policy and are already planning a benefit concert to raise awareness on the GMO issue in Boulder. Robyn O'Brien, Alex Bogusky, Steve Demos and Mark Retzloff are the founding members of GMO-Free Boulder, which will host the event Jan. 21 at the Boulder Theater, featuring Ziggy Marley.
"The GMO conversation has only just begun," said Mary VonBreck, the campaign manager for GMO-Free Boulder. "As we move forward as a community, tax payers will look for leadership that is in step with what makes Boulder, Boulder. And that includes upcoming Commissioner elections, school lunch, labeling and everything else where biotech agriculture companies have taken a foothold. The Ziggy Marley 'Wild and GMO Free Boulder' Benefit Concert is a celebration and signal of that forward movement to rid Boulder County of GMOs."
Observing Boulder County on the front lines as the organic and natural foods industry pushes back against a single-patent-owner food supply is not dissimilar to watching the early days of Occupy Wall Street. Stakeholders across the nation peacefully monitor Boulder as it swiftly becomes the Zuccotti Park of the non-GMO movement.
"Boulder is engaged in a fight for its authenticity and root," said Steve Demos, founder and former President of White Wave, LLC and co-founder of NextFoods. "We have been a model for natural and lifestyle choices for many years and in fact Boulder has earned a reputation as a leading natural 'brand' in the U.S. Our lifestyle choices have become a political issue important to the legacy of Boulder. Doesn't Boulder want to continue to be a leading model in bringing industry leaders and traditional farmers together to create a county that can continue to manifest the lifestyle philosophy that built this town? Let's put the Boulder back in Boulder."
Obviously holding an awareness campaign on this issue one month after the final results are announced cannot sway the commissioners’ votes, but will highlight the two commissioners who are up for reelection in 2012. With such a public outcry and unified majority against allowing GE crops on open space, one wonders if Boulder County residents will vote in virtually anyone else besides the two incumbent candidates.
This is, after all, still a democracy. Right?
This morning I spoke with Geri Prado, the Just Label It campaign director, who stresses the importance of U.S. citizens' "right to know" if our food is genetically engineered. If food is labeled with "genetically engineered" or "genetically modified", consumers can exercise their choice and vote at the cash register. After all, GMO seed is different, which allows companies to obtain patents. And if GMO ingredients or seeds are different than we should be allowed to know if we are buying them or not.
None of the Boulder County Commissioners could be reached for comment.