"Organic mecca" organizes against GMO sugar beets

 

The Boulder Daily Camera calls them "organic industry heavyweights." And they're out to make sure Boulder County Commissioners disallow the request of six area farmers to grow Roundup Ready sugar beets on open space land. Not because of the scientific and economic arguments against GMOs -- enumerated later -- but because it may besmirch the name of Boulder.

Steve Demos, who started the organic soy-product company White Wave 30 years ago in Boulder, told the Camera:

"The Boulder community derives billions of dollars in revenues — and I mean that literally — from association with the organic and natural products industry. If the headline when you wake up in the morning says on the national wire that the organic mecca has decided to grow GMO (genetically modified organism) beets on public land, that’s almost as effective in diluting a brand as if Rolls-Royce announced it was making an economy-model engine for airplanes. ... You’re playing with the identity of Boulder, Colorado.”

As much as I love organic food and distrust Monsanto (the company, along with the German corporation KWS, engineered the GMO beet to include a gene that is tolerant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide -- see Matt Jenkins' HCN story Brave New Hay), there's something annoying about Boulder's claim to represent the world of organic food, and by association, all that's sustainable and good.

I recall riding my bike to a well-known "wholistic" grocery in Boulder, weaving my way through the SUVs crowding the parking lot, then navigating the hordes of (often rude) shoppers inside the store, only to offer my "whole paycheck" for the food. The hypocrisy gets to you after a while: If these shoppers are so organic and pure, why aren't they walking or riding their bikes? Why is the kitchen populated by Spanish-speaking folks getting low wages? Why does it take my entire paycheck to feed myself?

Demos' comment reminds me of a young woman's response to a reporter's question about Rocky Flats, the nuclear-weapons-manufacturing-plant-turned-wildlife-refuge just 10 miles from Boulder. She wasn't concerned about the bombs, or the nuclear waste -- her concern was merely the proximity to Boulder, which was "embarrassing."

The effects of genetically modified crops are still largely unknown -- even though, as a commenter to the Camera article points out, Gregor Mendel altered the pea more than 150 years ago. Critics say GMOs have been linked to a host of health issues; that cross-pollination is inevitable, thus contaminating neighboring crops; that GMO crops can create "superweeds" that are immune to herbicides; and that using GMOs benefits Monsanto more than farmers and consumers.

The farmers who want to grow the sugar beets on open space say they will use less herbicide (they now use up to six herbicides to control weeds in their beet crops); that sugar beets bolt only every two years, making it less likely that the beets will contaminate nearby crops; that their yields will be greater. Finally, they argue that since nearly 90 percent of sugar beets now grown in the U.S. are modified, conventional seeds are hard to come by.

Turns out, too, that Boulder has been growing GMO corn on its open space since 2003. Oops, don't tell those organic shoppers. They shouldn't be putting sugar or corn syrup into their bodies anyway.

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • NEWS DIRECTOR
    Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • WRITING PLACE: THE ANIMAS RIVER REGION WRITING WORKSHOP
    REGISTER ONLINE BY: Friday, June 15 WHERE: Durango, CO (location TBD) WHEN: Monday, July 16 Youth workshop: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (18 and under,...
  • EQUITY IN THE OUTDOORS COORDINATOR
    The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION INTERN/ASSISTANT
    Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE MEDIA SERVICES
    In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • UNDEVELOPED 40 ACRES - SOUTHWEST COLORADO
    in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • TRUCK DRIVER
    Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • MARIA'S BOOKSHOP FOR SALE
    - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details: