[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 103 (Friday, May 28, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 29969-29972]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-12997]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

 [Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047]


Environmental Impact Statement; Determination of Nonregulated 
Status of Sugar Beet Genetically Engineered for Tolerance to the 
Herbicide Glyphosate

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 
and proposed scope of study.

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SUMMARY: We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health

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Inspection Service plans to prepare an environmental impact statement 
in connection with a court-mandated evaluation of the potential impacts 
on the human environment associated with the Agency's determination of 
nonregulated status for a Monsanto/KWS SAAT AG sugar beet line, 
designated as event H7-1. This notice identifies the environmental and 
interrelated economic issues raised by the Court and other potential 
issues that we may include in the environmental impact statement and 
requests public comment to further delineate the scope of the issues 
and reasonable alternatives.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before June 
28, 2010.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2010-0047 to submit or view public 
comments and to view supporting and related materials available 
electronically.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send one copy of 
your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047, Regulatory Analysis and 
Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, 
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to 
Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047.
    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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Andrea Huberty, Biotechnology 
Regulatory Services, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 
20737-1236; (301) 734-0485.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The regulations in 7 CFR part 340, 
``Introduction of Organisms and Products Altered or Produced Through 
Genetic Engineering Which Are Plant Pests or Which There Is Reason to 
Believe Are Plant Pests,'' regulate, among other things, the 
introduction (importation, interstate movement, or release into the 
environment) of organisms and products altered or produced through 
genetic engineering that are plant pests or that there is reason to 
believe are plant pests. Such genetically engineered organisms and 
products are considered ``regulated articles.'' The regulations in 
Sec.  340.6(a) provide that any person may submit a petition to the 
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) seeking a 
determination that an article should not be regulated under 7 CFR part 
340. Paragraphs (b) and (c) of Sec.  340.6 describe the form that a 
petition for a determination of nonregulated status must take and the 
information that must be included in the petition.
    On October 19, 2004, APHIS published a notice in the Federal 
Register (69 FR 61466-61467, Docket No. 04-075-1) announcing receipt of 
a petition from Monsanto/KWS SAAT AG requesting a determination of 
nonregulated status under 7 CFR part 340 for sugar beet (Beta vulgaris 
ssp. vulgaris) designated as event H7-1, which has been genetically 
engineered for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. The petition 
stated that this article should not be regulated by APHIS because it 
does not present a plant pest risk. APHIS also announced in that notice 
the availability of a draft environmental assessment (EA) for the 
proposed determination of nonregulated status. Following review of 
public comments and completion of the EA, we published another notice 
in the Federal Register on March 17, 2005 (70 FR 13007-13008, Docket 
No. 04-075-2), advising the public of our determination, effective 
March 4, 2005, that the Monsanto/KWS SAAT AG sugar beet event H7-1 was 
no longer considered a regulated article under APHIS regulations in 7 
CFR part 340.
    On September 21, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Northern 
District of California issued a ruling in a lawsuit filed by two 
organic seed groups and two nonprofit organizations challenging our 
decision to deregulate sugar beet event H7-1 (referred to in the 
lawsuit as Roundup Ready[reg] sugar beet), pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.), the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Plant Protection Act. 
Under the provisions of NEPA, agencies must examine the potential 
environmental impacts of proposed Federal actions. The Court ruled that 
APHIS' EA failed to consider certain environmental and interrelated 
economic impacts. As a result, the Court stated that APHIS is required 
to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). Accordingly, APHIS 
plans to prepare an EIS. In doing so, APHIS will utilize as appropriate 
any environmental analysis provided by the Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) and other data or analysis prepared by other agencies. 
APHIS has requested that EPA serve as a cooperating agency. This notice 
identifies potential issues and reasonable alternatives that we are 
considering addressing, and requests public comment on the inclusion of 
these or related issues and alternatives in the EIS.
    Management practices for organic sugar beet, conventional sugar 
beet, and glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet. What are the management 
practices and associated costs of establishing, growing, harvesting, 
and marketing sugar beet, including selling prices and premiums for the 
various types of sugar beet? What crop rotation regimes are used with 
sugar beet?
    Production levels of organic and conventional sugar beet, Swiss 
chard, and table beet by region, State, and county. What is the acreage 
of cultivated, volunteer, or feral sugar beet? What is the acreage of 
Swiss chard and table beet? Which regions of the country may be 
affected as a result of a determination of nonregulated status for 
glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet? What are the potential impacts on 
adjacent, nonagricultural lands such as natural areas, forested lands, 
or transportation routes that may result from the use of glyphosate-
tolerant sugar beet?
    Potential impacts of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet cultivation on 
livestock production systems. What are the potential impacts of 
glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet cultivation on conventional and organic 
livestock production systems?
    Potential impacts on food and feed. Does glyphosate affect the 
socioeconomic value of food or feed or its nutritional quality? What 
are the impacts, if any, on food or feed socioeconomic value or its 
nutritional quality from the use of glyphosate?
    Differences in weediness traits of conventional sugar beet versus 
glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet. What are the differences, if any, in 
weediness traits of conventional sugar beet versus glyphosate-tolerant 
sugar beet under managed crop production systems, as well as in 
unmanaged ecosystems?
    Occurrence of common and serious weeds found in organic sugar beet 
systems, in conventional sugar beet systems, and in glyphosate-tolerant 
sugar beet systems. What are the impacts of weeds, herbicide-tolerant 
weeds, weed management practices, and unmet weed management needs for 
organic and conventional sugar beet cultivation? How may the weed 
impacts

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change with the use of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet?
    Management practices for controlling weeds in organic sugar beet 
systems, in conventional sugar beet systems, and in glyphosate-tolerant 
sugar beet systems. What are the potential changes in crop rotation 
practices and weed management practices for control of volunteer sugar 
beet or herbicide-tolerant weeds in rotational crops that may occur 
with the use of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet? What are the potential 
effects on sugar beet stand termination and renovation practices that 
may occur with the use of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet?
    Cumulative impact on the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds. 
What glyphosate-resistant weeds have been identified and what is their 
occurrence in crops and in non-crop ecosystems? How would the addition 
of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet impact the occurrence of glyphosate-
resistant weeds in sugar beet, in other crops, and in the environment? 
Which are the most likely weeds, if any, to gain glyphosate resistance 
and why would they gain such resistance with the use of glyphosate-
tolerant sugar beet? What are the current and potentially effective 
strategies for management of glyphosate-tolerant or other herbicide-
tolerant weeds in glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet stands or in 
subsequent crops? What are the potential changes that may occur in 
glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet as to susceptibility or tolerance to 
other herbicides?
    Current or prospective herbicide-tolerant weed mitigation options. 
What are the potential impacts of current or prospective herbicide-
tolerant weed mitigation options, including those addressed by the EPA-
approved label for glyphosate herbicides?
    Potential for gene flow from glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet to 
other Beta species, including gene flow between seed fields, root 
crops, and feral plants. To what extent will deregulation change 
hybridization between cultivated and feral sugar beet, sugar beet 
introgression or establishment outside of cultivated lands, and sugar 
beet persistence or weediness in situations where it is unwanted, 
unintended, or unexpected? What are the potential impacts associated 
with feral glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet plants? Will the removal of 
glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet, in situations where it is unwanted, 
unintended, or unexpected, result in adverse impacts? In such 
situations, how will glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet be controlled or 
managed differently from other unwanted, unintended, or unexpected 
sugar beet?
    Economic and social impacts on organic and conventional sugar beet, 
Swiss chard, and table beet farmers. What are the economics of growing 
organic sugar beet, conventional sugar beet, or glyphosate-tolerant 
sugar beet as well as the economics of growing organic or conventional 
Swiss chard and table beet? What are the potential impacts of the 
presence of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet caused by pollen movement or 
seed admixtures? What are the potential impacts of commingling sugar 
beet seed with glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet seed? What are the 
potential changes in the economics of growing and marketing organic and 
conventional sugar beet that may occur with the growing of glyphosate-
tolerant sugar beet? What are the potential changes in production 
levels of other crops that may occur with the growing of glyphosate-
tolerant sugar beet? Will the cultivation of glyphosate-tolerant sugar 
beet result in more or fewer acres of other crops? What are the 
potential changes in growing practices, management practices, and crop 
rotational practices in the production of sugar beet seed for planting 
purposes that may occur with the use of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet? 
What are the potential changes in the choice of seeds available for 
organic and conventional sugar beet farmers that may occur with the use 
of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet?
    Cumulative impact of potential increased glyphosate usage with the 
cultivation of glyphosate-tolerant crops. What are the past, present, 
and future impacts of glyphosate usage on soil quality, water quality, 
air quality, weed populations, crop rotations, soil microorganisms, 
diseases, insects, soil fertility, food or feed quality, crop acreages, 
and crop yields as a result of the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant 
crops? Does the level of glyphosate tolerance within glyphosate-
tolerant sugar beet plants have an impact on the amount of glyphosate 
applied on the glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet crop on a routine basis?
    Impacts on threatened or endangered species. What are the potential 
impacts of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet cultivation on listed 
threatened or endangered species, or on species proposed for listing? 
What are the potential impacts of glyphosate use on listed threatened 
or endangered species or species proposed for listing, including 
glyphosate used on glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet? What impacts does 
the addition of glyphosate tolerance in sugar beet cultivation have on 
threatened and endangered species as a result of displacing other 
herbicides?
    Potential health impacts. What are the potential health impacts to 
farmers or others who would be exposed to glyphosate-tolerant sugar 
beet?
    Can any potential negative environmental impacts of the action be 
mitigated and what is the likelihood that such mitigation measures will 
be successfully implemented and effective? What is the likely 
effectiveness of the stewardship measures, outlined in the petition, 
which are designed to reduce inadvertent gene flow to negligible levels 
as well as to monitor and minimize the potential development of 
glyphosate-tolerant weeds? Are there reasonable alternative stewardship 
or monitoring measures that may avoid or minimize reasonably 
foreseeable environmental impacts of a deregulation decision?
    Impacts of the mitigation measures on coexistence with organic and 
conventional sugar beet production and on export markets. What are the 
potential impacts of mitigation measures on coexistence with organic 
and conventional sugar beet production and on export markets? Are there 
reasonable alternative measures that may avoid or minimize reasonably 
foreseeable impacts on organic and conventional sugar beet production 
and on export markets that may be associated with a deregulation 
decision?
    Consideration of reasonable alternatives. The EIS will consider a 
range of reasonable alternatives. These could include continued 
regulation of Roundup Ready[reg] sugar beets, deregulating Roundup 
Ready[reg] sugar beets, deregulating Roundup Ready[reg] sugar beets in 
part with geographic restrictions, or deregulating Roundup Ready[reg] 
sugar beets in part with required separation distances from sexually 
compatible crops. Comments that identify other reasonable alternatives 
that should be examined in the EIS would be especially helpful.
    Sugar beet growth, crop management, and crop utilization may vary 
considerably by geographic region, and therefore, when providing 
comments on a topic or issue, please provide relevant information on 
the specific locality or region in question. Additionally, we invite 
the participation of any affected Federal, State, or local agencies or 
Tribes.
    All comments on this notice will be carefully considered in 
developing the final scope of the EIS. Upon completion of the draft 
EIS, a notice announcing its availability and an invitation to

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comment on it will be published in the Federal Register.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 25th day of May 2010.
Kevin Shea,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-12997 Filed 5-26-10; 11:15 am]
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