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USDA SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ALFALFA

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Contact:
Suzanne Bond (301) 734-5175

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2009--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates 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.

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 originally deregulated two lines of RR alfalfa (J101 and J163) in 2005. The agency prepared this draft EIS to comply with a February 2007 judgment and order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The court did not overturn APHIS' 2005 conclusions regarding the safety of the RR alfalfa for food and feed purposes, but rather concluded that APHIS had not adequately documented potential, or lack of potential, environmental impacts.

APHIS is seeking public 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. The comment period will be open for 60 days from the date of publication in the Dec. 18, 2009, Federal Register. Preliminarily, APHIS concluded that there is no significant impact on the human environment due to granting nonregulated status to RR alfalfa.

To obtain feedback and take comment from members of the general public APHIS is scheduling four public meetings. These meetings will take place in conjunction with the Western Alfalfa Seed Conference in Las Vegas, Nev., the week of Jan. 17, 2010; the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Kearney, Neb., the week of Feb. 2, 2010; and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Healthy Farms/Rural Advantage Conference in Lincoln, Neb., the week of Feb. 2, 2010. APHIS will also hold a public meeting in the Washington D.C., area during the week of Feb. 8, 2010. Exact meeting dates and locations will be published in the Federal Register, posted on the APHIS Web site and will be announced in a future press release.

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 more than 13,000 safe environmental releases (field tests) of GE plants and deregulated more than 75 GE plants.

The draft EIS is available on the APHIS Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov. Notice of this draft EIS is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 18, 2009, Federal Register.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Feb. 16, 2010. You may comment by either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#
    documentDetail?R=0900006480a6b7a1
    to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044.

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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