[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 196 (Wednesday, October 12, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 59312-59313]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E5-5579]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. 03-101-5]


Environmental Impact Statement; Petition for Deregulation of 
Genetically Engineered Glyphosate-Tolerant Creeping Bentgrass; Request 
for Additional Information

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service is seeking information to develop an environmental 
impact statement as part of its consideration of a petition received 
from Monsanto Company and The Scotts Company. The petition requests a 
determination of nonregulated status for engineered creeping bentgrass 
(Agrostis stolonifera) that is glyphosate tolerant. We are preparing 
this environmental impact statement in accordance with 7 CFR 372.5 and 
40 CFR 1501.3 and 1501.4. We are seeking specific information about 
glyphosate use to control grasses. We are primarily interested in the 
details of those programs that focus on weed management in 
nonagricultural lands.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before 
November 14, 2005.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://
www.regulations.gov and, in the ``Search for Open Regulations'' box, 
select ``Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service'' from the agency 
drop-down menu, then click on ``Submit.'' In the Docket ID column, 
select APHIS-2005-0029 to submit or view public comments on APHIS 
Docket ID 03-101-5.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies 
of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. 03-101-5, 
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 
River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your 
comment refers to Docket No. 03-101-5.
    Reading Room: You may read any comments that we receive on this 
docket in our reading room. The reading room is located in room 1141 of 
the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW., 
Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to 
help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming.
    Other Information: Comments submitted in response to the previous 
notices cited in this document may be viewed on the Internet on the 
following Web sites; there is no need to resubmit those previously 
submitted comments in response to this notice. Comments on Docket No. 
03-101-1 and Docket No. 03-101-2 are available at https://
web01.aphis.usda.gov/Bentgrass.nsf. Comments on Docket No. 03-101-4 are 
available on the Regulations.gov Web site (see ``Federal eRulemaking 
Portal'' above) or at http://docket.epa.gov/edkfed/do/ EDK Staff 
Collection Detail View? object Id = 0b0007 d4806 fe 549.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Susan M. Koehler, BRS, APHIS, 4700 
River Road, Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238; (301) 734-4886.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Animal and Plant Health Inspection 
Service (APHIS) is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) 
with respect to a possible decision to remove engineered creeping 
bentgrass with glyphosate resistance (Scotts/Monsanto event ASR368) 
from regulation under 7 CFR part 340. We are seeking specific 
information about glyphosate use to control grasses in vegetation 
management programs that focus on publicly or privately owned, non-
agricultural lands. These locations may include areas like parks or 
recreation areas, highway roadsides, pipeline pumping stations, or 
electrical substations. The types of habitats in which we are most 
interested are

[[Page 59313]]

grasslands, riparian areas, or wetlands, because creeping bentgrass is 
best adapted for these areas. However, information on any habitats 
where Agrostis, Polypogon, or Poa sp. are present would also be useful.
    The type of information that APHIS seeks is specific and detailed. 
We invite information about both your vegetation management program and 
how that program would change if glyphosate resistant grasses were 
established in the managed habitat. The specific types of information 
that we seek are listed below:
    (I) An overall description of the management program.
    (A) Whether the goals and purpose of the management program 
include:
    1. The control of invasive or noxious weeds.
    2. The recovery or management of habitat for federally listed 
threatened or endangered species or other wildlife or species of 
concern.
    3. The restoration of ecosystem function.
    4. The maintenance of public use areas or rights-of-way.
    (B) If creeping bentgrass or its sexually compatible relatives are 
present in the managed area:
    1. Herbicide combinations or formulations used that include 
glyphosate.
    2. The total land area that is treated with glyphosate or a 
formulation containing glyphosate.
    3. The method and frequency of application of these herbicide 
formulations in the management plan.
    (II) How management programs would change if glyphosate resistant 
species were present.
    (A) Include potential changes in management strategies.
    (B) Changes in cost.
    (C) Changes in focus of program.
    (D) Legal restrictions on alternative vegetation management 
strategies.
    Because the data and information that we seek is not generally 
available, we are requesting this information in response to this 
notice. Descriptive and application-specific information is most 
helpful. Floristic assessments showing the prevalence of the cited 
grasses or sexually compatible relatives are also of interest. Please 
let us know if we may contact you for further information about your 
management activities. Your contributions will be used within the EIS 
to evaluate possible environmental impacts from engineered creeping 
bentgrass.

Background

The Host Organism

    Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bentgrass or CBG) is a cool-season, 
wind-pollinated, perennial species with about 13 relatives with which 
it can cross in the United States. CBG and about 33 other species of 
the genus occur naturally across the continental United States. The 
species occurs in wet meadows, seepage areas, ditches, on stream banks 
and along the margins of ponds and lakes, in moist disturbed areas, 
various grasslands (including upland prairies), mesic to rather dry 
upland forests, and on roadsides and railroad embankments. Bentgrasses 
can spread via dispersal of seed by wind, water, and animals, and 
vegetatively via above-ground runners (stolons). Common bentgrasses and 
rabbitsfoot grasses (e.g., Polypogon monspeliensis) may become 
glyphosate resistant if pollen transmits the genes to these other 
species, conferring resistance to glyphosate. Other grasses in other 
genera (such as Poa, bluegrasses) could become tolerant or resistant to 
glyphosate through selective processes following repeated use of the 
herbicide on golf courses.

The Regulatory History

    On April 14, 2003, APHIS received petition 03-104-01p from Monsanto 
Company (St. Louis, MO) and The Scotts Company (Gervais, OR) (Monsanto/
Scotts), requesting deregulation of a creeping bentgrass (Agrostis 
stolonifera L., synonym A. palustris Huds.) that has been genetically 
engineered for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. The Monsanto/
Scotts petition states that the subject creeping bentgrass, designated 
as event ASR368, should not be regulated by APHIS because it does not 
present a plant pest risk. (The petition is available on the Internet 
at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/03_10401p.pdf.)
    In a notice published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2004 
(69 FR 315-317, Docket No. 03-101-1), APHIS announced the receipt of 
the Monsanto/Scotts petition and solicited comments on whether the 
subject creeping bentgrass would present a plant pest risk. We 
solicited comments concerning our notice for 60 days, ending March 5, 
2004.
    On September 24, 2004, APHIS published in the Federal Register (69 
FR 57257-57260, Docket No. 03-101-2) a notice advising the public of 
our decision to prepare an EIS as part of our consideration of petition 
03-104-01p. Our decision was based on several factors: (1) Data 
associated with the petition, (2) a report prepared by the Weed Science 
Society of America on the weed management implications associated with 
the potential deregulation and commercialization of glyphosate tolerant 
and glufosinate tolerant creeping bentgrass varieties (http://
www.wssa.net/society/bentgrass.pdf), (3) our preliminary risk 
assessment (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/03_10401p_
ra.pdf), and (4) public comments received in response to the January 5, 
2004, Federal Register notice.
    Pursuant to 40 CFR 1501.4(d), APHIS initiated the scoping process 
as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act, beginning with 
the previously cited January 2004 Federal Register notice. The comment 
period for the September 2004 notice of intent was scheduled to close 
on October 24, 2004. However, in a document published in the Federal 
Register on November 18, 2004 (Docket No. 03-101-3, 69 FR 67532-67533), 
we reopened that comment period until December 2, 2004, to give 
interested parties additional time to respond.
    On April 11, 2005, APHIS published a notice (70 FR 18352-18353, 
Docket No. 03-101-4) announcing public scoping meetings. The meetings 
were held in Chevy Chase, MD, on May 3, 2005, and in Corvallis, OR, on 
May 18, 2005.
    All comments that we received in response to the January 2004, 
September 2004, November 2004, and April 2005 notices will be included 
as part of the scoping process and need not be resubmitted. You may 
read the previously submitted comments on the Internet or in our 
reading room (see ADDRESSES above). When the draft EIS is completed, we 
will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing its 
availability and inviting the public to comment on it. Following our 
consideration of the comments received, APHIS will prepare a final EIS; 
its availability will also be announced in the Federal Register along 
with a public comment period, after which the Record of Decision will 
be issued.

     Done in Washington, DC, this 5th day of October 2005.
Elizabeth E. Gaston,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
 [FR Doc. E5-5579 Filed 10-11-05; 8:45 am]
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