A federal judge has told the USDA that they should’ve slowed down — and considered the environment — when the agency approved genetically modified sugar beets, which have recently caused an uproar here in Boulder County.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled Monday evening that the USDA has to go back and produce the environmental impact statement that the agency should have worked on before.
Last December, six Boulder County farmers asked for permission to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets on the open space land they lease from the county. Since the county already allows GMO corn — 1,500 acres of open space is planted with it this year — the farmers thought the request wouldn’t be too big a deal.
But the issue blew up, thanks in part to a group of riled up leaders from the area’s organic and natural food industry. In August, the county commissioners agreed to delay the controversial decision on whether to allow the GMO beets while the county debates what to do with genetically modified crops in general. Read more
With just a few minutes to spare until midnight, the Boulder County Board of Commissioners wrapped up a seven-hour-long public meeting on whether to allow GMO sugar beets on publicly owned farm land… by unanimously deciding not to decide.
Instead, the commissioners asked county staffers to begin working on a plan for how to deal with all types of genetically modified crops.
In 2003, a different set of commissioners voted to allow GMO corn on county open space land leased to farmers, but stipulated that each new genetically modified crop would need new permission. This means that when farmers asked to grow GMO sugar beets last December, the request ate up hours and hours of staff time and triggered three public meetings that drew hundreds of locals.
And even if the beet question was put to bed Tuesday, herbicide-resistant wheat and drought-resistant corn are just around the corner, waiting to pull the county back into another long debate.
“We do not want to be in a position of doing hand-to-hand combat about every GMO seed,” said Commissioner Will Toor at Tuesday’s public hearing.
Last night’s decision by the commissioners to create a larger plan could save time in the future, but for now, it means that there’s no end in sight. (Last time the county debated GMO corn, it took nearly three years to get a decision.)