USDA Releases Final EIS for RR Alfalfa


Roundup Ready alfalfa planting seed could be back on the U.S. market by the end of January as expected and in time for spring planting.

Many were expecting USDA to de-regulate planting of RR alfalfa when it announced the final and long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement ordered by the courts. However, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack put a knot in that notion when he said USDA may place draconian restrictions on where RR alfalfa seed and forage can be grown.

Those recommended restrictions would have a major impact on California, Arizona and other major Western forage and seed producing states (Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming).

Here’s some of the statement released by the USDA on Thursday:

 On December 16, APHIS made the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Roundup Ready® Alfalfa (RR alfalfa) available for public viewing. APHIS will issue its record of decision at least 30 days after the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability for the EIS in the Federal Register. APHIS anticipates it will be published on December 23, 2010.

APHIS prepared the Draft EIS to comply with a February 2007 judgment and order by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. APHIS originally deregulated the lines of RR alfalfa in June 2005 and a lawsuit was subsequently filed. The judge vacated APHIS’ 2005 decision to deregulate RR alfalfa and determined that the Agency must prepare an EIS in support of a regulatory determination regarding RR alfalfa.

Publication of the EIS satisfies a 9th Circuit Court ruling that required the EIS be conducted, and enables the USDA to make a decision about deregulation of RRA. There is a minimum 30-day period required between publication of the EIS and a deregulation decision by the agency. No commercial activity is allowed until and unless the USDA issues a decision deregulating RRA.

Vilsack said the department will choose between “two co-preferred alternatives” within those 30 days.

These alternatives are total deregulation or deregulation with geographic restrictions and isolation distances to “protect the production of non-GE alfalfa seed.”

Either way, RR alfalfa will go on the market in 2011 unless the anti-biotech element gets another injunction. If the regulatory rich scenario is adopted by USDA, sales could be limited.

”In selecting two options, we now have a final EIS that presents and evaluates alternatives that we believe are sound and applicable in the real world,” Vilsack said.

To help USDA select one of the two alternatives, Vilsack has asked groups involved in RR alfalfa to meet with him “in the very near future to start a dialogue I hope will help resolve the problems we all face together. I think we are at a critical juncture in terms of regulating the products of GE agriculture, and at the same time supporting other segments of production.” Industry sources say a meeting is scheduled for Monday at USDA to see if the department can broker “co-existence.”

“This final EIS is a first step toward looking at the ways we can achieve effective coexistence between all sectors of agriculture. It’s a conversation that needs to happen now and we are not going to shy away from having it,” he added.


 Source: USDA – APHIS; Western Farm Press

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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