The adventurous small city of Boulder is known for many things—world-class athlete training center, hippie-cum-New Age vortex, muscular liberalism, scientific research hub, capital of the alternative universe, business breeding ground for all things natural and organic.
So it surprised more than a few townies when a Boulder County agricultural advisory group on Tuesday night recommended, by 6-3 vote, to approve the planting of GMO sugar beets on county Open Space lands—properties that usually include mountain forests and trails but also prairie farms in order to maintain a greenbelt between Boulder and neighboring towns and to support the county’s agricultural heritage.
The surprise comes from what can be filed under: Self-inflicted wound. That is, for the sake of a half-dozen farmers on the take from Monsanto, Boulder officials have decided that it’s okay to fire a significant shot over the bow of the Boulder brand— in this case, the natural-and-organic center that is Boulder.
Boulder was home to Wild Oats stores, which had more stores nationwide than Whole Foods Market when Whole Foods bought them out. One of the three Whole Foods Markets in town is among the top-performing stores in all the Whole Foods Markets’ pantheon. Also in town is a Vitamin Cottage, a Sunflower Market, a Sprouts market, a revitalized Alfalfa’s Market and an independent Lucky’s Market which is also decidedly in the natural-and-organic realm. There are five mainstream supermarkets in town, all with notable sections and aisles dedicated to natural and organic.
The decision came after the county commissioners, having heard the hue and cry from concerned citizens, punted the issue to the ag board. The commissioners still have the opportunity to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the board’s recommendation. And at least one commissioner was seen in a public protest in downtown Boulder two weeks ago.
The county might as well decide to close down its landmark Flatirons to rock climbing. Or ban road bikes from mountain roads. Or shutter the Bolder Boulder 10k Memorial Day race. Or put up a mega-church where the National Center for Atmospheric Research building sits. Or disallow the advertising of medical marijuana dispensaries in local papers (woops, they voted for that—also on Tuesday night).
Allowing genetically engineered foods on Open Space lands is saying that we no longer value keeping natural lands natural. We can now drop our energy bar wrappers on the side of trails! We don’t have to pick up dog poop! Shooting mule deer can’t be very far behind.
What's worse, one of the more common forms of GMO crops uses Bt for corn. But Bt is a natural and organic product that is used in emergencies by organic farmers. There are documented cases of boll weevils becoming resistant to Bt corn—Monsanto then goes back to its drawing board and re-engineers another tweak to Bt, but the wreckage to organic farmers has already been done.
The wreckage to the Boulder brand is happening right in front of our very eyes.