USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Monday that it has completed work on the long-awaited draft environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating the potential environmental effects of deregulating Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa. A public comment period for the draft EIS will begin on Friday following publication of the announcement in the Federal Register.

As part of yesterday’s announcement, APHIS noted that it had originally deregulated two lines of RR alfalfa in 2005 and that it prepared the draft EIS to comply with a February 2007 judgment and order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The APHIS press release pointed out that “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.”

While APHIS stated yesterday that it “preliminarily” had concluded there is no significant impact on the human environment due to granting non-regulated status to RR alfalfa, the EIS draft analyzes two alternatives for potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts, as well as human health and safety impacts of deregulating RR alfalfa. One alternative would be to grant non-regulated status to the two RR alfalfa lines. That designation would mean the alfalfa would no longer be under the regulatory oversight of USDA-APHIS and could move and be planted freely without continued federal agency involvement. Under the other alternative, the alfalfa would remain a regulated article, still under USDA-APHIS authority and subject to oversight of its movement and field testing.

The 60-day public comment period starts Dec. 18 (Friday) and runs through Feb. 16. To see the draft EIS, visit the APHIS Web site. A factsheet with frequently asked questions about RR alfalfa and the draft EIS process is also available on the site.

To submit comments online, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. To submit comments by mail, send two copies 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.

APHIS is also scheduling four public meetings to take comments from the public:

  • Week of Jan. 17, in conjunction with the Western Alfalfa Seed Conference, Las Vegas, NV.
  • Week of Feb. 2, during the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Kearney, NE, and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Healthy Farms/Rural Advantage Conference in Lincoln.
  • Week of Feb. 8, in the Washington D.C., area.
Exact meeting dates and locations will be published in the Federal Register and posted on the APHIS Web site.

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