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Notice

ArborGen, LLC; Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Controlled Release of a Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Hybrid

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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 prepared an environmental assessment for a proposed controlled field release of a genetically engineered clone of a Eucalyptus hybrid. The purpose of this release is to continue research on the effectiveness of gene constructs which are intended to confer cold tolerance; to test the efficacy of a gene introduced to alter lignin biosynthesis; and to test the efficacy of a gene designed to alter fertility. We are making the environmental assessment available to the public for review and comment.

DATES:

We will consider all comments that we receive on or before July 6, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments by either of the following methods:

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:

Biotechnology Regulatory Services, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-7324. To obtain copies of the environmental assessment, contact Ms. Cynthia Eck at (301) 734-0667; e-mail: cynthia.a.eck@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 in the environment of a regulated article.

On January 11, 2008, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) received a permit application (APHIS No. 08-011-106rm) from ArborGen, LLC, in Summerville, SC, for a controlled field release of genetically engineered Eucalyptus hybrids in 19 locations. On January 14, 2008, APHIS received a second permit application (APHIS No. 08-014-101rm) from ArborGen for another controlled release of genetically engineered Eucalyptus hybrids in 10 additional locations. Under these permits for a total of 29 sites, trees planted under previously approved permits (APHIS Nos. 06-325-111r, 08-039-102rm, and 08-151-101r) would be allowed to flower.

Permit applications 08-11-106rm and 08-014-101rm describe Eucalyptus trees derived from a hybrid of Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus urophylla. The purpose of the field tests is to assess the effectiveness of gene constructs which are intended to confer cold tolerance; to test the efficacy of a gene introduced to alter lignin biosynthesis; and to test the efficacy of a gene designed to alter fertility. In addition, the trees have been engineered with the kanamycin resistance selectable marker gene (nptII). These DNA sequences were introduced into Eucalyptus trees using disarmed Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

The subject Eucalyptus trees are considered regulated articles under the regulations in 7 CFR part 340 because they were created using donor sequences from plant pests.

To provide the public with documentation of APHIS' review and analysis of any potential environmental impacts and plant pest risks associated with the proposed release under permit of these transgenic Eucalyptus trees, APHIS has prepared an environmental assessment (EA). 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' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372).

The EA may be viewed on the Regulations.gov Web site or in our reading room. (Instructions for accessing Regulations.gov and information on the location and hours of the reading room are provided under the heading ADDRESSES at the beginning of this notice.) In addition, copies may be obtained by calling or writing to the individual listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

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Done in Washington, DC, this 28th day of May 2009.

Kevin Shea,

Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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[FR Doc. E9-12928 Filed 6-2-09; 8:45 am]

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