Boulder County, natural businesses seek common ground on GMOs

Boulder County, natural businesses seek common ground on GMOs

Is the natural products industry really a priority for Boulder County? County Commissioner Will Toor and two local, natural businesses express their interest in cooperation.

In the wake of the Boulder County Commissioners' vote to allow genetically engineered seed on public lands, local natural foods businesses seek reassurance that their industry remains a priority in Boulder.

County commissioner and former mayor of Boulder, Will Toor, provides some clarity as to how the city is working with local organic farms, whose produce directly impacts the natural products industry nationwide. Toor said the county is "committed to working with farmers and the natural and organic food industry to expand natural and organic food production on county owned agricultural lands, and to develop stronger market relationships between the farmers and the industry."

Those relationships are well underway. Open space land that is organic or is transitioning to organic production grew from 150 acres in 2005 to 1,500 acres in 2012, Toor said. "That is 10 percent of our public cropland, or about 15 times the national average." Boulder County has set a goal of increasing organic acreage to 20 percent by the end of the decade.

Doug Radi, vice president of marketing at Rudi's Organic Bakery, and president of a local trade association, Naturally Boulder, remains hopeful for the industry's future in Boulder. "We think there is a tremendous opportunity to link local agriculture with local food production…. Ultimately, we need to create a reason that local farmers do not need to plant GM crops."

But if Boulder is committed to natural, why did commissioners approve GMOs? Boulder-founded Silk, a prominent opponent of coexistence and a brand that reaches 20 million households a year, thinks the main issue is awareness. "Ridding Boulder County of GMOs and requiring that GMO foods be labeled will require a strong consumer voice on the matter," said Silk's General Manager Craig Shiesley. "By educating these consumers we can empower them to play a pivotal role in bringing about major change."

Much remains to be seen on possibilities for seed coexistence, but for now all parties appear to be cooperating despite the disagreement.

What are ways brands and retailers can continue to promote awareness among customers about GE foods? Tell us in the comments.

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