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Notice

Availability of Environmental Assessment for a Proposed Field Trial of Genetically Engineered Pink Bollworm

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AGENCY:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice of availability and request for comments.

SUMMARY:

We are advising the public that an environmental assessment has been prepared for a proposed field trial of pink bollworm genetically engineered to express green fluorescence as a marker. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposes to use this marked strain to assess the effectiveness of lower doses of radiation to create sterile insects for its pink bollworm sterile insect program. This program, using sterile insect technique, has been conducted by APHIS, with State and grower cooperation, since 1968. Data gained from this field experiment will be used to improve the current program. The environmental assessment is available to the public for review and comment.

DATES:

We will consider all comments that we receive on or before March 15, 2006.

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-2006-0015 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. After the close of the comment period, the docket can be viewed using the “Advanced Search” function in Regulations.gov.
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0015, 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-2006-0015.

Reading Room: You may read the environmental assessment and any comments that we receive 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: Additional information about APHIS and its programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Dr. Robyn Rose, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-0489. To obtain copies of the environmental assessment, contact Ms. Ingrid Berlanger at (301) 734-4885; e-mail: ingrid.e.berlanger@aphis.usda.gov.

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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.” A permit must be obtained or a notification acknowledged before a regulated article may be introduced. The regulations set forth the permit application requirements and the notification procedures for the importation, interstate movement, or release into the environment of a regulated article.

On April 8, 2005, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) received a permit application (APHIS No. 05-098-01r) from APHIS's Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) Center for Plant Health Science and Technology (CPHST) Decision Support and Pest Management Systems Laboratory in Phoenix, AZ, for a field trial using the pink bollworm (PBW), Pectinophora gossypiella (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), that has been genetically engineered to express an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) derived from the jellyfish Aequora victoria. A piggyBac transposable element derived from the plant pest cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) was used to transform the subject PBW, and expression of the EGFP is controlled through use of the Drosophila melanogaster heat shock protein (hsp70) promoter.

The subject transgenic PBW is considered a regulated article under the regulations in 7 CFR part 340 because the recipient organism is a plant pest. The proposed field test will evaluate the feasibility of using F1 sterility systems in a sterile insect program, which is designed to depress PBW populations. The transgenic PBW will be reared in the Phoenix PBW genetic rearing facility and treated with radiation levels suitable to induce F1 sterility. The irradiated insects will be released into no more than four 3-acre field sites of cotton that are adjacent to cotton expressing the Bt toxin, which is toxic to PBW. This release is part of CPHST's PBW sterile insect program. Information resulting from this research will be used in support of APHIS's efforts to eradicate the PBW in the United States.

Additional information on the PBW eradication plan for the United States may be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/​ppq/​pdmp/​cotton/​pinkbollworm/​eradication/​eradication.pdf. An environmental assessment (EA) prepared for the Southwest Pink Bollworm Eradication Program may be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/​ppd/​es/​pdf%20files/​swpbwea.pdf.

To provide the public with documentation of APHIS's review and analysis of any potential environmental impacts and plant pest risk associated with the proposed release of the Start Printed Page 7504transgenic EGFP PBW, an EA has been prepared. The EA was prepared in accordance with (1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and (4) APHIS's NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372). Copies of the EA are available from the individual listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

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Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7701-7772 and 7781-7786; 31 U.S.C. 9701; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3.

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Done in Washington, DC, this 7th day of February 2006.

Kevin Shea,

Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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[FR Doc. E6-1972 Filed 2-10-06; 8:45 am]

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