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11 February 2003

Contact: James Burrus, Media Information Officer, 303-441-1622

Commissioners approve GMO protocols

Boulder County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve protocols for the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) on Boulder County Open Space lands.

The protocols adopted include three types of genetically modified corn grown by farmers who lease the county‚s open space. They‚ve been adopted for use indefinitely. 
The commissioners adopted the following protocols:

Recommendations on varieties of GM corn approved for use on Boulder County Parks and Open Space

1. Any corn genetically engineered to confer glyphosate tolerance by a U.S. government-approved event as of October 2002 and that is specified in Table I. Any combination of corn bearing these approved events is allowed (e.g. stacked hybrids), excluding only combinations with events resulting from genetic engineering that are not on the list in Table I.

2. Any corn genetically engineered to confer glufosinate tolerance by a U.S. government-approved event as of October 2002 and that is specified in Table I. Any combination of corn bearing these approved events is allowed, excluding only combinations with events resulting from genetic engineering that are not on the list in Table I.

3. Any corn genetically engineered to confer resistance to the European corn borer, by a U.S. government-approved event as of October 2002 and that is specified in Table I. Any combination of corn bearing these approved events is allowed, excluding only combinations with events resulting from genetic engineering that are not on the list in Table I.

4. The committee requests that, where possible, Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) farmers avoid using stacked transgenic hybrids unnecessarily (i.e. when a transgenic trait is present that will not be utilized). 

5. Crops containing any U.S. government-approved event not listed in Table I can only be planted on BCPOS land after approval by the County Commissioners.

Recommendations for buffer zones between corn varieties

GM corn, like all fertile corn, has the potential to cross-pollinate other corn varieties. A number of studies have reported on how far corn pollen can drift and cross-pollinate (see and Figure 1, Table II). These studies can be used by a grower to determine the planting strategies needed for obtaining the desired level of identity preservation (IP) of his/her crop. In general, IP requires the presence of a buffer zone between the crops, e.g. between a GM crop and a non-GM crop.

To manage potential problems related to IP, it is critical that BCPOS receive precise information on crop planting plans by both BCPOS growers and growers interested in IP of their crops. To enable BCPOS to address such problems in a timely manner, the committee recommends the following guidelines:

1. All BCPOS growers are required to inform the BCPOS office if they plan to plant any GM crop on BCPOS land by April 1. BCPOS growers are required to keep the office informed of any changes in their plans.

2. Any grower located close enough to require a buffer, and interested in IP of his/her corn crop should contact the BCPOS office with their concerns as early as possible and no later than April 1. The BCPOS office will determine if GM corn will be planted on BCPOS adjacent to the concerned grower and if so, will appoint a person to act as a liaison and mediator between the affected parties. Appropriate county representatives will determine which non-open space growers qualify as an IP grower. 

Recommendations for what the buffer distance should be 

Recent preliminary data obtained by members of the GMO TAC (Byrne et al., unpublished observations; Figure1/Table II) has shown that in Boulder County a separation distance of 150 ft. provides for greater than 99.4% identity preservation. 

The committee recommends that the buffer distance be 150 ft., pending final results from the 2002 study in Boulder County (Byrne et al., unpublished observations). The grower interested in IP always has the option to extend this distance on his own land to ensure even greater IP. 

Recommendations on what types of crops will be permitted in the buffer 

With the exception of GM corn, any species may be grown in the buffer zone. Committee comment: Planting of a crop in the buffer zone is not required but is expected to significantly reduce weed problems.

Recommendations on who is responsible for Identity Preservation (IP) 

This is a difficult question and opinions amongst GMO TAC members vary greatly regarding what level of responsibility should be borne by the GM grower on BCPOS vs. the producer desiring IP. 

Traditionally in the USA, growers interested in identity preservation assume responsibility for the IP of his/her crop. However, given the committee‚s sense that the promotion and preservation of small farming operations (both conventional and organic) is important to the citizens of Boulder County, a modified view concerning BCPOS and adjacent farming may be appropriate. 

At present, identity preservation of non-GM corn crops does not appear to be a problem in the context of BCPOS for two reasons: (1) GM corn planted on BCPOS to date is far from any known IP grower operations; and (2) only a very small fraction of the corn acres on BCPOS land are GM varieties (i.e. large buffers are in place). However, this question may become more of an issue in the future. Below the committee provides four options that the Commissioners may wish to consider as they arrive at a decision as to „who‚s responsible.š

The committee recommends that the BCPOS office shall notify the affected parties about potential identity preservation situations, and offer its services to help find mutually acceptable and practical solutions to preserve identity preservation. 

If, after having received a request for identity preservation, BCPOS staff determines that there is no mutually agreed-upon plan between the GM grower and the grower desiring identity preservation, then the BCPOS grower desiring to plant GM corn would be required to provide 100% of the buffer zone recommended in section (C). 

Recommendations for corn refuges to prevent development of insect resistance

As is the case with other pesticides, target insects can develop resistance to Bt toxins. To delay the development of insect resistance to Bt corn, the EPA has developed Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plans. All growers of Bt corn must sign a Stewardship Agreement, which obligates them to follow these EPA-mandated IRM plans. 

One of the most important elements of the EPA-mandated IRM plans is the inclusion of „structured refugesš in the Bt cornfields. The EPA defines a structured refuge as „∑a non-Bt portion of a grower‚s field or set of fields that provides for the production of susceptible (SS) insects that may randomly mate with rare resistant (RR) insects surviving the Bt crop to produce susceptible RS heterozygotes∑š Highlights of some of the EPA-mandated requirements for refuges currently in place are given below in quotes. As with all growers, BCPOS growers must follow these requirements. Additional comments or recommendations from the GMO TAC are given below.

1. BCPOS growers must comply with EPA-mandated Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plans, and with IRM requirements from seed companies. Since BCPOS growers wishing to grow Bt corn must follow these plans and since the EPA requirements may change as more scientific data is obtained, the committee recommends Bt corn growers comply with the agreement from their supplying seed company to ensure appropriate IRM practices. 

2. The committee recommends minimal use of pesticides in the refuge wherever possible.

3. Each grower must provide his or her own refuge. Since larger refuges will delay the development of insect resistance even further, the committee recommends planting as large a refuge as is practical.

4. The committee strongly recommends that, where possible, the refuge be planted within the same field as the Bt corn or within Ļ mile. 

5. BCPOS should develop a policy concerning the reporting of possible resistance development by farmers growing crops on BCOS land

6. Management practices on the refuge and Bt corn acreage must be similar and include planting both varieties at the same time and using similar agronomic practices.

The EPA further states: 

„For Bt field corn grown outside cotton-growing areas (e.g. the Corn Belt), ∑growers must plant a minimum structured refuge of at least 20% non-Bt corn

„Insecticide treatments for control of ECB [European corn borer], CEW [Corn earworm] and/or Southwestern corn borer (SWCB) may be applied only if economic thresholds are reached for one or more of these pests. Economic thresholds will be determined using methods recommended by local or regional professionals (e.g. Extension Service agents, crop consultants. 

„∑microbial Bt insecticides must not be applied to non-Bt corn refuges.š 

„Growers must∑plant only non-Bt corn in the refuge and ∑plant the refuge within ł mile of their Bt corn acreage. In regions of the Corn Belt where conventional insecticides have historically been used to control ECB and SWCB, growers wanting the option to treat these pests must plant the refuge within Ļ mile of their Bt corn.š 

„Refuge planting options include: separate fields, blocks within fields (e.g. along the edges or headlands), and strips across the field. When planting the refuge in strips across the field, growers must∑plant multiple non-Bt rows whenever possible.š

„The registrant will monitor for the development of resistance∑this resistance monitoring program will be developed to measure increased tolerance to Bt corn above the various regional baseline ranges

„Non-Bt∑corn should provide the best refuge to increase the probability that susceptible insects will mate with potentially resistant ECB from the Bt corn. Non-Bt corn hybrids used in refuges should be selected for growth, maturity, fertility, irrigation, weed management, planting date, and yield traits similar to the Bt corn hybrid.š 

Recommendations for notification of farmers adjacent to BCPOS

Procedures to contact farmers who may be impacted by GM corn grown on BCPOS should be developed by BCPOS staff.

Recommendations for conflict resolution

BCPOS will develop a dispute resolution procedure to address complaints about the use of transgenic corn on county open space, and to address disputes between parties where at least one of them is an open space grower planting a GM crop. This procedure could include informal procedures or formal mediation. 

Recommendations for monitoring and compliance

BCPOS will develop a method to monitor growers‚ compliance with these protocols. 

The Boulder County Parks & Open Space Department leases a portion of its open space lands to farmers who grow crops on those lands.

In 2002, Boulder County farmers planted about 400 acres of genetically modified corn on open space land ― about 10 percent of the approximately 4,000 acres of open space land planted in corn. Nationally, 35-40 percent of all corn grown is genetically modified.

After some groups expressed concerns about pollen drift in 2000, the Boulder County Commissioners formed a scientifically oriented advisory committee comprised of molecular biologists, plant and soil scientists and farmers representing organic, conventional and biotech crop growers.



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