On Leap Day, council members of Boulder County held a public forum for anyone wishing to speak about the county's four-year-old policy allowing genetically modified crops to be grown on county-owned farmlands.
A friend ask me to speak. I had nine minutes. Here's what I said:
On May 8, 2014, legislators in the Vermont state senate passed Act 120, a GMO labeling law, by a count of 28 for and 2 against. When several senators were interviewed following the vote, some stated that although they were not supporters of GMO labeling, they had to follow the demands of the voting public. (The Alternative Daily)
My name is David Laskarzewski and I reside in Boulder County. I come here, today, of my own free will and time, and as a citizen of this beautiful part of Colorado, of this beautiful place in our world.
You will no doubt, today, hear arguments for and against the use of genetically modified crops on public, open-space land. You are charged with responsibility of considerable gravity and I imagine that you do not take this responsibility lightly.
I submit to you that the promise of a citizen-led approach to governance—a democracy—is not guaranteed in perpetuity. It is an idea that was born out of our thirst to express our inalienable human rights. Each decision made for or against the will of the people—the majority—strengthens or weakens the principles and health of democracy each and every day.
Even the strongest of friendships require nourishment to foster and continue the enjoyable bond of friendship. In the same way, each of us who are citizens of these United States has a relationship with democracy and it requires effort, hard work, and the courage of our nation’s founders to foster and deepen our bond with our privileges and freedoms.
I would like remind the council of one of the guiding values of the Vision Statement of Boulder County:
We are a safe, healthy and environmentally responsible county. Our stewardship honors our past and sustains and improves the quality of life for present and future generations.
With that in mind, I am compelled to now share that GMOs are banned or restricted in more than 60 countries.
GMOs are created and patented by agrichemical (chemical/biotech) companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, Bayer CropScience, and BASF.
GMOs are made by forcing genes from one species into the DNA of an unrelated species in order to introduce a new trait. For example: inserting a cold-water fish gene into a tomato plant so that the tomato plant won’t freeze in the winter. This cannot occur in the natural world.
GMOs on the market today are corn, soy, canola, sugar beet, cotton, alfalfa, Hawaiian Rainbow papaya, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, and derivatives of those crops including cottonseed oil. Aspartame is also a GMO. GMO ingredients are used in as much as 80 percent all processed foods in America.
Currently, there is no required labeling system in place in North America to identify GMOs in the food system, preventing potential health liability claims from being traced back to GMO producers and food processors. Without mandatory, legally defined labeling there is no traceability, accountability, or liability.
GMO crops are engineered to withstand heavy applications of toxic herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, killing weeds and all other plant life except the crop. These herbicides, in themselves, are harmful to human health and the environment, including the health of bees—pollinators responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.
Today, GMO crops are primarily grown for use in biofuels, animal feed, and cotton clothing (GMO cotton). A small percentage of total GMO acreage is used in processed foods like cereals and sodas. Sweet corn, Hawaiian Rainbow papaya, yellow crookneck squash and zucchini are the only whole food GMOs on the market. There is not a single study that proves that GMOs have helped to “feed the world.”
With respect to feeding the world, I am currently a member of Food-1-1, a newly formed multi-sector coalition working to reduce food waste in Colorado. As the recent issue of National Geographic magazine points out, roughly 1/3 of the food our planet produces is wasted—either thrown away or left to rot in fields. That is enough to feed 2 billion people. Our earth produces more than enough food to feed its inhabitants.
Perhaps, members of the Council, the most important statistic of all is that 60 percent of Boulder County residents—the people in this room who live here, work here, play here, the majority—do not want GMO crops grown on Boulder County open space and public lands.
To paraphrase FDR:
Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials—or corporations—but the voters of this country. And this county.
It was a sunny day at recess back in 7th grade, the day that I had to stand up in history class—the one following recess—and give an oral report. I was so nervous that I didn't enjoy recess very much. Today, speaking in public about something meaningful is a lot easier.