Just three weeks into the public comment period and the Roundup Ready alfalfa draft environmental impact statement (EIS) has already garnered nearly 400 comments.

"We are getting a lot of comments,” says Andrea Huberty, USDA-APHIS project coordinator for the EIS. Usually, comments pour in at the end of a comment period, but the Roundup Ready alfalfa debate – on whether it should again be deregulated or not – has been a hot one, if roundtable discussions at forage meetings around the country are any clue.

But it isn’t the number of comments that will cause change. Comments need to pertain to the 1,476-page document or some part of it, to show where USDA-APHIS may have “missed the boat,” Huberty says.

Huberty was asked by Hay & Forage Grower to evaluate one comment for and one against Roundup Ready alfalfa, submitted just after the comment period opened on Dec. 18. One grower who had planted the transgenic crop when it was deregulated briefly outlined several benefits, such as reduced use of herbicide, that he had experienced. The other commenter's statement told how, if Roundup Ready alfalfa was made legal, it could destroy his export market.

"On both of the examples," Huberty says, "they talk about how it affects them, the individual farmers. But it does not relate back to the document at hand. So it's hard for us to know how they felt about the analysis that we did to address those specific concerns."

She suggests reading A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA: Having Your Voice Heard, or at least thesection called "How to Comment," on page 27 of the pamphlet. It was published by the Council of Environmental Quality to explain the National Environmental Policy Act and can be viewed online at tinyurl.com/NEPAguide.

Download the draft EIS. To submit comments, go to regulations. The comment period ends Feb. 16.