Monday, August 31, 2009

Boulder's Farming Debate

Hysterics win a round in farm debate
By Vincent Carroll
Posted: 08/29/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

The Luddites won a round this week in Boulder County.

Yes, the science-challenged activists who fear genetically modified crops succeeded in keeping GM sugar beets from being grown by six farmers on open space land — at least for the time being.

If I seem to harp on this conflict, having laid out the farmers' case some weeks ago, it's because the overall stakes are so large. Fear-mongers have retarded the adoption of GM crops elsewhere, too, even when their advantages are clear.

GM crops are mostly prohibited in Europe, for example, because of popular fear of "Frankenstein foods." Then again, Europeans used to execute witches by the thousands, too, with roughly the same degree of supporting evidence. Some things never change.

The Boulder farmers were so shocked by the raw emotion of opponents that they eventually asked commissioners to postpone a decision. Naturally the commissioners obliged. You wouldn't expect three beleaguered officials to tell the hysterics to take a hike, would you?

Never mind that county staff recommended the commission approve the applications, or that genetically modified corn is already grown on open space there. For that matter, the county already slashes rates for leaseholders willing to switch to organic farming, open space director Ron Stewart told me recently. What's next: outright payments to accelerate the transition?

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It’s been an interesting debate unfolding in Boulder, CO as of late. Land that is owned by the county and being farmed by local farmers is at the center of the discussion. There are some very vocal people leading a charge that will only allow organic food to be grown on the land. The typical, un-supported arguments have been being used by the pro-organic crowd. For me, it boils down to an elitist argument. Even with the lowest cost of food in the world, many families struggle to make ends meet and have enough food to eat. There is no doubt that organic food is more expensive. So if these vocal elitists have their way, it would make food more expensive and less available to working families. As a person that has been involved in growing food all of my life so that everyone has something to eat, it would be hard for me to accept that.

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