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Notice

Monsanto Company; Availability of Petition and Environmental Assessment for Determination of Nonregulated Status for Soybean Genetically Engineered for Glyphosate Herbicide Tolerance

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has received a petition from Monsanto Company seeking a determination of nonregulated status for soybean designated as MON 89788, which has been genetically engineered for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. The petition has been submitted in accordance with our regulations concerning the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms and products. In accordance with those regulations, we are soliciting comments on whether this soybean presents a plant pest risk. We are also making available for public comment an environmental assessment for the proposed determination of nonregulated status.

DATES:

We will consider all comments we receive on or before April 6, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments by either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0195 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket after the close of the comment period, is available through the site's “User Tips” link. Start Printed Page 5262
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0195, 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-2006-0195.

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: 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. Virgil Meier, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-3363, virgil.d.meier@aphis.usda.gov. To obtain copies of the petition or environmental assessment (EA), contact Ms. Cynthia Eck at (301) 734-0667; cynthia.a.eck@aphis.usda.gov. The petition and EA may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/​brs/​aphisdocs/​06_​17801p.pdf and http://www.aphis.usda.gov/​brs/​aphisdocs/​06_​17801p_​ea.pdf.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

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 § 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 § 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 June 27, 2006, APHIS received a petition seeking a determination of nonregulated status (APHIS Petition Number 06-178-01p) from Monsanto Company of St. Louis, MO (Monsanto), for soybean (Glycine max L.) designated as transformation event MON 89788, which has been genetically engineered for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate, stating that soybean line MON 89788 does not present a plant pest risk and, therefore, should not be a regulated article under APHIS' regulations in 7 CFR part 340.

As described in the petition, MON 89788 soybean plants have been genetically engineered to express a 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase protein from Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4 (CP4 EPSPS), which confers tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. Expression of the added gene is controlled, in part, by gene sequences derived from Arabidopsis thaliana and the plant pathogen figwort mosaic virus. The Agrobacterium tumefaciens transformation method was used to transfer the added genetic material into the recipient parental soybean line A3244.

MON 89788 soybean plants have been considered regulated articles under the regulations in 7 CFR part 340 because they contain gene sequences from plant pathogens. MON 89788 soybean plants have been field tested in the United States since 2001 under notifications authorized by APHIS. In the process of reviewing the notifications for field trials of the subject soybean plants, APHIS determined that the vectors and other elements were disarmed and that trials, which were conducted under conditions of reproductive and physical confinement or isolation, would not present a risk of plant pest introduction or dissemination.

APHIS has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) in which it presents three alternatives based on its analyses of data submitted by Monsanto, a review of other scientific data, and field tests conducted under APHIS oversight. APHIS may: (1) Take no action, (2) deregulate MON 89788 soybeans, or (3) deregulate MON 89788 soybeans in part.

In section 403 of the Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.), “plant pest” is defined as any living stage of any of the following that can directly or indirectly injure, cause damage to, or cause disease in any plant or plant product: A protozoan, a nonhuman animal, a parasitic plant, a bacterium, a fungus, a virus or viroid, an infectious agent or other pathogen, or any article similar to or allied with any of the foregoing. APHIS views this definition broadly to cover direct or indirect injury, disease, or damage not just to agricultural crops, but also to other plants, for example, native species, as well as organisms that may be beneficial to plants, such as honeybees.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for the regulation of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), as amended (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.). FIFRA requires that all pesticides, including herbicides, be registered prior to distribution or sale, unless exempt from EPA regulation. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), as amended (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.), pesticides added to (or contained in) raw agricultural commodities generally are considered to be unsafe unless a tolerance or exemption from tolerance has been established. Residue tolerances for pesticides are established by the EPA under the FFDCA, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces tolerances set by the EPA. Because of the similarity in tolerance to glyphosate for MON 89788 and the previously deregulated event MON-04032-6, Monsanto has not requested a label change for the application of glyphosate to MON 89788 soybeans.

The FDA's policy statement concerning regulation of products derived from new plant varieties, including those genetically engineered, was published in the Federal Register on May 29, 1992 (57 FR 22984-23005). Under this policy, FDA uses what is termed a consultation process to ensure that human and animal feed safety issues or other regulatory issues (e.g., labeling) are resolved prior to commercial distribution of a bioengineered food. Monsanto submitted a food and feed safety and nutritional assessment summary to the FDA for the MON 89788 soybean. A final FDA decision is pending.

National Environmental Policy Act

To provide the public with documentation of APHIS' review and analysis of any potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed determination of nonregulated status for MON 89788, 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 Start Printed Page 5263implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and (4) APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372).

In accordance with § 340.6(d) of the regulations, we are publishing this notice to inform the public that APHIS will accept written comments regarding the petition for a determination of nonregulated status from interested or affected persons for a period of 60 days from the date of this notice. We are also soliciting written comments from interested or affected persons on the EA prepared to examine any environmental impacts of the proposed determination for the subject soybean event. The petition and the EA and any comments we receive are available for public review, and copies of the petitions and the EA are available as indicated in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this notice.

After the comment period closes, APHIS will review the data submitted by the petitioner, all written comments received during the comment period, and any other relevant information. After reviewing and evaluating the comments on the petition and the EA and other data and information, APHIS will furnish a response to the petitioner, either approving the petition in whole or in part, or denying the petition. APHIS will then publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the regulatory status of Monsanto's glyphosate-tolerant soybean and the availability of APHIS' written decision.

Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7701-7772 and 7781-7786; 31 U.S.C. 9701; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.8, and 371.3.

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Done in Washington, DC, this 30th day of January 2007.

Kevin Shea,

Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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[FR Doc. E7-1793 Filed 2-2-07; 8:45 am]

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