The Boulder County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow some genetically modified organisms to be grown on county-owned open space land.
All three commissioners agreed that farmers should be allowed to continue to plant corn that has been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide glyphosate or to resist insects. Planting GMO corn was first approved in Boulder County in 2003.
And the commissioners supported the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets, which also have been modified to resist glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup. But the commissioners said they would be reticent to approve any additional glyphosate-resistant crops that may be developed in the future.
The commissioners said they would consider GMO crops with other traits -- such as drought resistance -- in the future as they are developed.
"I don't believe we should ban GMOs, but I do think we need to be very careful and limited in allowing them," Commissioner Will Toor told the packed hearing room.
Tuesday's vote ends a contentious public process that has dragged on for nearly three years.
The controversy was ignited after six farmers who lease land from the county asked for permission in December 2008 to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets. After a summer of packed public hearings and GMO protests, the county commissioners decided in August 2009 to delay a decision about GMO sugar beets until the open space department could create a comprehensive management plan for its 16,000 acres of cropland.