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December 20, 2011

Boulder vs GMOs.

Letter to the Editor.

Last week’s commission hearing was the culmination of two years of a lack of leadership from every sector; business, citizens, farmers and policy.

That opened the door for the world’s largest agricultural leader to waltz in (from out of state) and say they want to own the Open Space that our tax dollars pay for. If that sounds sweeping, please consider how global banks and corporations now use the cash flow off of commodity crops to place speculative bets in a new food derivatives market.  This is a business model so genius that only the mortgage and banking industries could have rivaled it.

In the only meeting in front of our county commissioners Ben Pearlman, Will Toor and Cindy Domenico, Boulder County residents were drowned out by the bio tech industry that flew in from DC, Maryland and Arizona, insisting that only they had the ‘authoritative’ research upon which to base our open space policy. By 11:30 that night, many of the citizens who had come to speak still hadn’t had a chance to voice their concerns. Some stayed as late as 3:30 am in order to be able to have a say.

Our Boulder County Crop Land Policy failed to define the real problem: a business model of farming publicly owned lands that embraces all the stakeholders. So instead of a conversation, Boulder County put on a Big Ag circus.

And we are each responsible.

The real issue is that Big Ag has taken over worldwide agriculture, leaving farmers two ways to farm – with We the People, or against us. Because Big Ag is the single patent holder of  the seeds that supply our food system, they have created an agricultural industry beholden to them.  They own the patents so they own the seeds, so they own the farmers and they own the science and they own the profits. Now they want to own our commissioners’ vote and our public land.

Failure to secure this public asset would set a precedent that could collapse their derivatives model. Don’t believe it? Read their lobbyist’s letter to the Boulder County Commissioners.

If there is to be any hope of saying no to this monopoly of our food system, communities like Boulder will need to design crop land policies for public land that pilot a system of agriculture that doesn’t include Big Ag.

Boulder is uniquely qualified to create this system.

It requires supply and demand.  Boulder is an organic and natural foods epicenter, so we fulfill that demand.  We have manufacturers who require a multitude of crops.  Currently those manufacturers have to truck in the raw materials.

Recently, there have been talks with Open Space about bringing our best entrepreneurial minds to create a system where the crops are grown on public land—infrastructure would have to be built, distribution lines would have to be created,  and Boulder County public land could become an epicenter alternative to Big Ag.

Creating this system will require everyone to sit at the table and build relationships. We can’t afford to continue to let Monsanto pit us against each other.

No matter what happens at Tuesday’s vote of the Boulder County Commission, this issue will continue to be a rift in our community until everybody finds a win-win situation.  New elections for two commissioner seats are already embracing the GMO Free Boulder survey results that show 71% of all voters want GMOs prohibited on public land.

So what happens next November when the new commission takes this issue to a referendum or votes outright to ban all GMOs on public land, get them out of our school lunches and labels all local food as GMO or GMO Free?  Taxpayers have been as clear as they can be: we don’t want our tax dollars to support a GMO policy. We will eventually get the policy we want. And then what will happen to our Open Space farmers?

This is no longer just about the much debated science. We already know that not a single long-term human health study has been presented to the Commissioners. And in turn, they cannot provide them you or me. Just ask.

This is about a philosophy that this community created long ago, the reason that people and businesses relocate here for. Public land policy will need to be in line with that philosophy.

And we will want to embrace all of our farmers in finding solutions that just might become a model for the nation.

I have met with them personally—and the truth is that if we can find crops that work within this philosophy, and that maintain their livelihoods and the livelihoods of our local foods manufacturers, we can all win. They would be as relieved as the rest of the county to be part of a friendship, instead of a battle.

All of this requires leadership at the policy level. We urge our Commissioners to stand up and represent all of us.

Much Love,

Mary VonBreck

GMO Free Boulder

Founding Supporters:

Steve Demos, Founder Silk, WhiteWave, Next Foods, GoodBelly

Mark Retzloff, Co-founder Alfalfa’s, Horizon Organic Dairy, Eden Soy

Alex Bogusky, FearLess Revolution, Common, Crispen Porter + Bogusky

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