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USDA SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON DRAFT PROGRAMMATIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

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Rachel Iadicicco (301) 734-3255
Jerry Redding (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates potential revisions to existing regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms.

“Over the past 15 years, APHIS has regularly reviewed and revised its biotechnology regulations to ensure they remain grounded in the latest science and are robust enough to keep pace with the demands of technology,” said W. Ron DeHaven, administrator of APHIS.

In January 2004, APHIS publicly announced it was beginning a review of its regulations and published a notice of intent to prepare an EIS. The notice identified potential issues and alternatives to be studied in the EIS and requested public comment to further shape the scope of the issues and alternatives.

Today's publication of the draft programmatic EIS is a crucial step in the overall regulatory revision process. The draft EIS outlines several key areas APHIS is evaluating and seeking public comments on, including expanding APHIS' regulatory scope through additional provisions in the Plant Protection Act (PPA) of 2000, utilizing a tiered permitting system based on potential environmental risk and implementing a process for continued oversight of crops that do not meet the criteria for deregulation.

Input received regarding these areas and all aspects of the draft EIS will enable APHIS to make an informed decision regarding any possible future changes to the regulations. Ultimately, APHIS will formulate a proposed rule based on information in the draft EIS, the latest scientific information and public comments.

Because the public is a key partner in the EIS process, APHIS is scheduling four public meetings in August in the Washington, D.C. area, Missouri and California, to allow interested parties to express their views in person. Meeting dates and locations will be published in a separate Federal Register notice in the near future.

APHIS is committed to an open and transparent regulatory process that takes all comments into consideration and reflects the latest science, while continuing to protect America's agricultural and natural resources.

APHIS' broad biotechnology regulatory authority falls under the scope of the PPA, which has combined and modernized the various authorities under which APHIS safeguards domestic plant resources and regulated GE organisms, including the Federal Plant Pest Act and the Plant Quarantine Act.

The draft EIS is available on the APHIS Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.

Notice of this action is scheduled for publication next week in the Federal Register.

APHIS invites comments on this notice and the draft EIS. Consideration will be given to comments beginning July 13, and all comments must be received on or before Sept. 11. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0112, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238. If you wish to view the draft EIS or submit a comment using the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu; then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0112 to submit or view public comments and to view the draft EIS and the supporting and related materials available electronically.

Comments are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and may also 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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Note to Reporters: USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are available on the Internet. Go to the APHIS news release page at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/newsroom. Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically. Send an e-mail message to lyris@mdrdlyriss10.aphis.usda.gov and leave the subject blank. In the message, type subscribe press_releases.



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