Boulder County Commissioners’ GMO Decision Doesn’t Separate Fact From Fiction
While we’ve all come to accept that some of our friends and family are susceptible to urban legends and demonstrably untrue Internet memes, we have a right to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard — particularly when our tax dollars and the future of our open space land is at stake.
Commissioners Gardner and Jones recently engaged in a particularly blatant demonstration of fact-averse policy making. When faced with the question of continuing to allow the planting of genetically engineered seed on open space agricultural land, there was an evidence-based path available to the commissioners. The county staff had gathered local data on the sustainability impacts of various cropping systems, presented to the commissioners as a white paper. Both CU and CSU are home to many well-respected, independent scientific experts ready and able to discuss recent research, global scientific consensus, and otherwise help separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, when sifting through the mountain of scientific data.
Instead, these two commissioners fully ignored the results of their own staff’s data collection, presumably because it demonstrated that genetically engineered cropping systems fared far better in sustainability measures than organic cropping systems. In contrast to the 2011 process that created Boulder County’s Cropland Policy, this Board of Commissioners made no attempt to reach out proactively to the local scientific community. At the invitation of the county’s farmers (and out of their own desire to see policy based on the best scientific evidence) some of our local academic experts did speak with the commissioners, providing peer-reviewed studies and answering any and all questions the commissioners posed to them.
Unfortunately, it appears that the effort to communicate solid science to these two commissioners was in vain. This became apparent during the commissioners’ public comments prior to their directive mandating a transition away from genetically engineered crops on county land. For example, Commissioner Jones repeated the misleading myth that glyphosate (an herbicide) was found to be a probable carcinogen, even after multiple local academics explained to her why that statement is not supported by the overall body of research, and that contextually glyphosate is less carcinogenic than Jones’ daily cup of coffee. We seem to have entered the era of policymaking by Internet meme.
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.