There would be “no significant impact on the human environment due to granting non-regulated status to RR (Roundup Ready) alfalfa,” USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) concludes in its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the transgenic crop.

Made public Dec. 14, the draft EIS also states that the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that “there is no unreasonable environmental risk when using glyphosate when the user adheres to the label restrictions, as they are legally required to do.”

The first such document prepared for a genetically engineered crop, the EIS was mandated in spring 2007. That's when a federal judge ruled that USDA erred when it deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005 without adequately documenting its environmental impacts. The judge issued an injunction prohibiting the sale of transgenic alfalfa seed until an EIS is completed.

Following a 60-day public comment period, which ends Feb.16, APHIS will prepare a final EIS, then Roundup Ready alfalfa seed sales may again be permitted. Seed marketers hope that will happen prior to late summer and fall 2010 seedings.

The draft EIS is posted on the APHIS Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov. To submit comments, go to tinyurl.com/RRComment.

Or, mail written comments 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. State that your comments refer to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044.

Besides online and written comments, APHIS is seeking feedback on the draft EIS in four scheduled public meetings. Three will be held in conjunction with other meetings the week of Jan. 17 at the Western Alfalfa Seed Conference in Las Vegas, NV; and the week of Feb. 2 at both the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Kearney, NE, and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Healthy Farms/Rural Advantage Conference in Lincoln.

APHIS will also hold a public meeting in the Washington D.C., area during the week of Feb. 8. Exact meeting dates and locations will be publicized by APHIS and posted on www.aphis.usda.gov.