Steve Demos, founder of the White Wave food company, made a good point recently when he said Boulder County, Colo. should be more concerned about its image as a community that encourages organic and natural products than one that allows genetically modified crops on publicly-owned land.
Demos said Boulder receives billions of dollars in revenues from the organic and natural products industry. The county's association with the industry should outweigh any desire to allow five farmers to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets on open space land. Roundup Ready sugar beets are genetically modified to resist the herbicide Roundup, which is manufactured by Monsanto.
Those opposed to the proposal under consideration by county commissioners claim the GMOs could contaminate conventional and organic fields. The impact of such crops on humans and the environment is not adequately known, and the use of the GMOs could result in the creation of herbicide-resistant weeds.
The farmers, however, say they need this technology to stay competitive. The county already allows Roundup Ready corn to be grown on county land.
But as Demos, a prominent figure in the organic industry, points out, this debate is not just about the science surrounding genetically engineered crops. The real question should be whether Boulder, known for its wholesome, natural and organic lifestyle, should toss that branding aside and open the door to more GMOs on public land?
Any savvy business person knows the answer. Of course not. Boulder's image has long been associated with natural and organic. That association is only going to grow as the demand for such products and lifestyle continue to take hold.
Demos and others in the organic and local natural foods industry plan to fight the proposal.