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Suzanne Bond  (301) 734-5175

USDA EXTENDS COMMENT PERIOD ON DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ALFALFA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2010--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced a 15-day extension of the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating the potential environmental effects of deregulating alfalfa genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup.  This GE alfalfa is commonly referred to as Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa.

The comment period will now end on March 3, 2010.
 
APHIS considered two alternatives in the draft EIS:  to grant nonregulated status to the two RR alfalfa lines, or to maintain the lines’ status as regulated articles.  APHIS analyzed these alternatives with regard to their potential environmental impacts, socioeconomic impacts, as well as human health and safety impacts.

APHIS is seeking comment on the draft EIS and will consider all public comments submitted during the comment period before finalizing the EIS or making any decisions regarding the regulatory status of RR alfalfa.   Preliminarily, APHIS concluded that there is no significant impact on the human environment due to granting nonregulated status to RR alfalfa.

APHIS is also holding a series of public meetings where interested parties can comment on the draft EIS.  Meetings took place in Nevada and Nebraska earlier this year.  The final meeting, which will be held in Riverdale, Md., is now scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, 2010.  The meeting will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the APHIS Conference Center, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, Md., 20737.
 
APHIS’ regulates the introduction (importation, interstate movement and environmental release) of GE organisms.  APHIS has been safely regulating GE organisms since 1986 and to date has authorized nearly 16,000 safe environmental releases (field tests) of GE plants and deregulated more than 79 GE plants.

The draft EIS is available on the APHIS Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.  Notice of this draft EIS was published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the  Dec. 18, 2009, Federal Register.  EPA published notice of the extension of the comment period in the Feb. 5, 2010, Federal Register.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before March 3, 2010.  You may comment by either of the following methods:

Comments received are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and can be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.  To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

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