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Recent decisions by federal authorities to allow the unregulated planting of genetically modified alfalfa and sugar beets have some fearing that the approvals may take root in Boulder County’s own approach to the genetically engineered crops.

On Jan. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised environmental activists’ hackles by announcing that it will not regulate alfalfa that has been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Both the alfalfa and the pesticide are made by biotech giant Monsanto.

Then, the following week, the USDA announced that it is partially deregulating genetically modified (GM) sugar beets due to a predicted sugar shortage, a decision that seems to fly in the face of an August decision by a federal district court judge in San Francisco to revoke approval of the beets until an environmental impact study could be completed.

Meanwhile, closer to home, last week the group charged with developing a set of recommendations for Boulder County’s own regulations on planting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on county-owned open space held its first meeting.