‘The unintended consequences of a GMO ban’

Read the Guest Opinion by Rebecca Larson in the Daily Camera. Copied below word-for-word:

As a resident of Boulder County and an agronomist with a Ph.D. in plant science, I’ve watched the public discussion about modern agricultural practices on open space land with growing concern. In particular, there seem to be a significant number of misconceptions about how the planting of GMO crops impacts pesticide use (the broad term “pesticide” refers to herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides). It’s important to recognize that all farmers have to deal with weed, pest, and disease pressure and all, including organic farmers, use pesticides to deal with these issues.

Those who are unfamiliar with agriculture often say that GMO crops result in an increase in dangerous pesticide use. This is not the experience of the local farmers in Boulder County. Roundup-Ready crops actually allow farmers to use less pesticide and decrease the number of trips they make across the field for application. Prior to Roundup-Ready crops, farmers would have to apply several rounds of a different pesticide (or combination of pesticides) which stressed the crops, reduced yields, caused greater disease incidence, contributed to greater weed resistance, and resulted in more fuel usage.

One outlier report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has generated a lot of scary language on social media about Roundup. IARC acknowledged it had “little evidence” to support its conclusion that Roundup causes cancer. The other three research bodies supporting the World Health Organization (WHO), and therefore the WHO itself, disagree with the IARC findings. Every other major regulatory body globally has also discredited the IARC findings; all say Roundup is safe and does not cause cancer. Roundup is safe enough to buy at a hardware store and apply at home with no training or special equipment. This is not the case with many of the older pesticides that were used prior to GMO crops.

The public frequently equates “organic” with “pesticide-free.” This is untrue. There are many pesticides that are allowed in organic production, some with toxicity profiles much more concerning that the modern chemistries used with GMO crop production.

The idea that banning GMOs would reduce the use of pesticides or somehow eliminate neonicotinoid-coated seeds is erroneous, since those plant protection measures are also used on non-GMO seed. Neonicotinoid seed treatments protect seeds and seedlings against early-season insect pests which are a real and present threat to Boulder County farmers. The alternative is to make foliar applications later in the season using less selective, more toxic pesticides at higher rates more frequently. Seed treatment in combination with plant pest tolerance is a key component of integrated pest management (IPM) programs Boulder County farmers are using to preserve beneficial insects while protecting their own crops against pests.

Many people who express concern about pesticides do so because they’re worried about pollinator health. Farmers — more than anyone — understand the value of pollinators in our local food system. Most scientists and bee experts agree that bee health is affected by multiple factors, including parasites, diseases, nutrition, weather, and hive management practices.

Pollinator health is an ongoing concern, but reports of a “bee-pocalypse” have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the number of honeybee colonies has remained stable in the U.S., and there is no evidence that our local bee population is suffering. Through the use of DriftWatch and other communication tools, our farmers are able to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with nearby beekeepers. Bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with modern agriculture, including the use of safe pesticides applied according to the label instruction.

Farmers are true environmentalists. Every decision they make is centered on doing what is best for the land that provides their livelihoods today and the legacy they will pass down to their children and grandchildren tomorrow. The modern technologies are adopted by farmers because they are better, safer, and more sustainable than what was used before them. If specific modern agriculture technologies are banned, farmers will be forced to go back to older techniques for weed and pest management that are more damaging to the crops, the land, and — ultimately — to us.

Crop protection products are essential to Boulder County’s farmers’ livelihoods. They also allow Boulder County consumers access to an abundant supply of fresh, high-quality foods that are affordable and accessible year-round. Those who are pushing for bans within the cropland policy are not aware of the unintended consequences this action could have on local farmers, businesses, and consumers. As a community, we can support coexistence and collaboration among all of our wonderful farmers.

Rebecca Larson lives in Longmont.

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boulder county commissioners

Boulder County Commissioners: Shills for the organic growers? If so, they’re wasting their time because organic farming is proving to be unsustainable here.

Amazingly, the Homeless Philosopher is accused of being on Monsanto’s payroll every time I weigh in on the GMO issue. TRUTH: I’m in favor of the best practices that trial and error and thousands of years of experience in agriculture have brought us to adopting —  GMO crops being in the forefront today. I love my GMO foods, and like almost everyone else I eat them every day.

You’d rather be hip and trendy? I for one am NOT inclined to pay a premium for so-called organic produce which all too often is grown, harvested, shipped, prepared, and sold to the consumer in unsanitary conditions. Think about Chipotle Mexican Grill, which served up the most recent E. coli outbreak.

— MRW

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