Organic Consumers Association

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Hundreds Pack Meeting to Both Decry, Defend GMOs on Boulder County Open Space

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Colorado News page.
LONGMONT -- A boisterous crowd of hundreds -- at one point punching through the Longmont Conference Center's fire occupancy limit and forcing an attached room to be opened -- had their say about genetically modified crops Thursday night and Friday morning during a 9 1/2-hour public hearing on Boulder County's proposed Cropland Policy.

Dozens of speakers stood before the county commissioners to either vent about the dangers of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, on open space land or to herald them as a sensible science-based solution for an increasingly populous and hungry planet.

Conventional farmers demanded they be given the freedom to grow the crops they want while organic farmers and gardeners denounced GMOs as a dangerous experiment. Tempers became short at times, with members of the crowd clapping, laughing and shouting out and prompting Commissioner Ben Pearlman to plead repeatedly for order.

The meeting, which started at 6 p.m. Thursday, ended at 3:30 a.m. Friday.

The public hearing was the culmination of more than two years of debate, public meetings and committee reports about how Boulder County should manage agricultural activity on open space acreage.

The final decision on the proposed Cropland Policy rests with the commissioners, though no date has been set for a vote.

Boulder resident Brook Stableford, who opposes GMO crops, incorporated some performance theater into his 3-minute presentation, pulling out a cigarette and comparing the practices and assurances of the agribusiness industry to those offered by the tobacco industry decades ago.

"It's the same scam all over again," Stableford said.

Daniel Bush, one of several Colorado State University professors who spoke in defense of bio-engineered crops, called the GMO detractors members of an "anti-science movement."

"They are ignoring the science because they don't believe it supports what they believe," he said. "It becomes a religious belief in some ways."

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