USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service seeks public comment on draft environmental impact statement evaluating potential effects of giving GM sugar beets nonregulated status

WASHINGTON , October 12, 2011 (press release) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of making a determination of nonregulated status of sugar beets genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup. These GE sugar beets are commonly referred to as Roundup Ready® (RR) sugar beets.

APHIS considered three alternatives in the draft EIS: deny the petition seeking a determination of nonregulated status, make a determination of nonregulated status, or extend the partial deregulation of RR sugar beets for the root crop, with mandatory conditions and restrictions.

APHIS originally deregulated RR sugar beets (Event H7-1) in 2005. The agency prepared this draft EIS to comply with a September 2009 judgment and order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that APHIS should have prepared an EIS before making a determination on the nonregulated status of RR sugar beets.

On July 29, 2010, Monsanto and KWS SAAT AG submitted to APHIS a supplemental request to amend the petition requesting partial deregulation of RR sugar beets to authorize continued cultivation subject to carefully tailored interim measures and conditions. In response to that supplemental petition, APHIS prepared an environmental assessment and made a determination that it is appropriate to partially deregulate H7-1 sugar beets root crop production activities if grown under specific mandatory conditions.

APHIS is seeking public comment on the draft EIS and will consider all public comments submitted during the comment period before finalizing the EIS or making any decisions regarding the regulatory status of RR sugar beets. The comment period will be open for 60 days from the date of publication in Federal Register. To obtain feedback and take comments from members of the general public, APHIS is scheduling three public meetings. These meetings will take place in Fargo, N.D., on Nov. 15; Corvallis, Ore., on Nov. 17; and APHIS will also hold a public meeting in the Riverdale, Md., on Nov. 22. Exact locations will be published in the Federal Register and posted on the APHIS website.

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