The Boulder County Commissioners have adopted a revised transition plan for phasing out genetically-engineered (GE) crops on county open space agricultural lands based on feedback and input received during two recent public hearings and nearly a month of accepting comments online. The first hearing, held on May 7, was followed by a second and final hearing on June 3, where a revised version of the initial proposal was considered by the county commissioners.
The Boulder County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the revised staff proposalwhich shortened the timeline for phasing out GE crops grown on county open space lands from the original proposal presented by Parks & Open Space staff in May.
The newly adopted plan changes the 2016-approved GE phase-out timeline by providing a two-year extension on the ban of GE corn (through 2021), a four-year extension on the ban of GE sugar beets (through 2025), and limiting the use of neonicotinoids beyond the current ban (2021) solely to the obligatory seed coatings that accompany GE seeds. The commissioners also requested that staff work to develop incentives for GE tenant farmers to phase out their GE crops and use of pesticides sooner.
In their deliberations, the commissioners consistently referenced their strong concerns about the harmful impacts of pesticides on public health and the environment, going so far as to recommend that staff consider how to incentivize more rapid reductions in the use of herbicides and neonicotinoids. As such, the adopted plan also stipulates that all neonicotinoids will be banned when the GE crops are no longer permitted.
All three county commissioners thanked the large audience for attending and providing a robust conversation around the issue. In their remarks, they acknowledged the significant amount of concern and passion regarding GE crops and the use of pesticides and also noted the cooperation and efforts by the county’s tenant farmers to phase out GE crops.
“The discussion tonight is not about reversing the ban on neonicotinoids and GE crops on county open space lands and it’s not about our wavering in that commitment in any way,” said Board of County Commissioners chair Elise Jones. “We are considering relatively modest changes to timelines and looking at how best to facilitate the successful transition away from GE crops and neonicotinoids by our tenant farmers.”
The commissioners also underscored how a successful transition plan will generate lessons that all farmers in Boulder County and beyond can benefit from.
County Commissioner Deb Gardner said, “We’re seeking to create a transition plan that serves as a model that can be successfully replicated anywhere.”
Gardner further emphasized the need to broaden the discussion about GE crops and neonicotinoids to a larger discussion about soil health, regenerative agricultural, and carbon sequestration in order to ensure a healthy food system in and outside of Boulder County.
Commissioner Matt Jones agreed with his colleagues and added that “it’s important to support our tenant farmers and maintain our agricultural heritage in Boulder County.”
The June 3 public hearing included nearly three hours of public testimony. Comments were also received through an online comment form available on the county website. The video of the public hearing will be archived and available on the Open Meeting Portal.
Additional information can be found at: boco.org/CroplandPolicy.
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