Boulder, CO Bans Genetically Engineered Crops from City-Owned Land

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Boulder, CO, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted on 8/23/00


To address the issue and concerns related to growing genetically modified organisms (crops) on City Open Space lands.

The issue of genetically modified organisms being grown on Open Space lands was recently raised at the July 26, 2000, Open Space Board of Trustee’s meeting. The Board directed staff to ensure that such organisms were not being grown on Open Space properties and return with a draft policy.

Also, the Boulder County Commissioners held a study session on this issue on June 8, 2000, to gather information for the formulation of broad direction related to genetically modified organisms.

Genetically modified organisms are defined as organisms (plant, animal, or bacteria) that have been genetically engineered by the insertion of a foreign (extrinsic) gene. They are plants that have not acquired their characteristics through normal plant reproductive mechanisms. These organisms are typically referred to as "transgenic”.

Conventional plant breeding techniques (cross-pollination, etc.) involve the controlled transfer of genes that lead to the expression of the desired traits. Biological reproductive processes limit which organisms can be successfully cross bred. This barrier has been overcome by genetic engineering technology that allows plant breeders to insert genes from completely unrelated organisms to create transgenic crops.

Most transgenic crops have been developed to lower production cost or to enhance product quality. Transgenic crops that are currently available to farmers have genes that allow the crop to be herbicide tolerant or pest resistant. Having this genetic resistance reduces the amount of herbicide or pesticide applied to the crop, thus reducing the growers cost of production. There are also perceived environmental benefits because of the reduced need for pesticide application.

Although there are human and animal health concerns, the most controversial issue relative to transgenic crops is their long-term environmental impacts. The risk with insect resistant crops is that non-target insect species will be harmed and the target insect species will become resistant to the toxin produced by the transgenic crop. Similarly, herbicide resistant crops may cross pollinate with wild relatives and create herbicide resistant weeds.

While the department has never addressed the issue directly, the department's current policy is that the risks of growing transgenic crops on Open Space outweigh potential benefits and that no transgenic crops or plants will be grown on Open Space. There are no transgenic crops being grown on Open Space property at this time. However, approximately 20 acres of herbicide tolerant corn were grown in 1998.

To address these issues and concerns, Open Space staff have taken the following steps:

1) A letter (Attachment A) will be sent to each lessee, reinforcing the producing transgenic crops on Open Space is not permitted, and securing lessees' concurrence with this provision;

2) As leases expire, and as new leases are created, we will insert language explicitly precluding transgenic crop production, and ensuring that only plants that have acquired their characteristics through conventional plant breeding techniques may be grown;

3) Resource Specialists will follow through by approving crops to be planted.

This item is being heard at this public meeting, advertised in the Daily Camera.

Staff recommends adoption of these steps as the interim policy direction for the Department.