Roundup Ready® Alfalfa Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
On January 27, 2011, APHIS announced its decision to grant nonregulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup. The final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Roundup Ready® Alfalfa (RR alfalfa) was published on December 23, 2010. APHIS was required to wait at least 30 days after the EIS was published in the Federal Register before issuing its decision. APHIS made its decision after conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative EIS and several public comment opportunities, and determining that RR alfalfa does not pose a plant pest risk.
USDA considered three alternatives during the preparation of the final EIS: to maintain the RR alfalfa's status as a regulated article, to grant nonregulated status to RR alfalfa, or to establish geographic restrictions and isolation distances for the production of RR alfalfa. USDA has thoroughly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the proposed alternatives and has listed two preferred options: deregulation as one option and the other deregulation accompanied by a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on the production of GE alfalfa seed and, in some locations, hay.
By listing both options as preferred, USDA has considered plant pest issues as well as broader environmental and related economic issues related to the coexistence between genetically engineered, conventional, and organic alfalfa production.
Following its 2005 decision to deregulate two lines of RR alfalfa, APHIS was ordered to prepare this final EIS to comply with a February 2007 judgment 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.
In December 2009, APHIS made its draft EIS available for public comment. The draft EIS was available for an extended 75-day comment period, which closed on March 3, 2010; approximately 244,000 comments were received. APHIS also held four public meetings across the United States during the open comment period. Approximately 133 people attended these public meetings. Substantive comments and recommended study reports were considered for incorporation into and revision of the final EIS.