USDA Seeks Public Input on the Scope of a Forthcoming Programmatic EIS That Will Inform a Proposed Rule to Revise its Biotechnology Regulations

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Dear BRS Stakeholder,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that it will issue a notice that it is developing a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS), required under the National Environmental Policy Act, that will evaluate a range of alternatives that the Agency can take as it works to update its biotechnology regulations. The notice also invites the public to comment on the range of alternatives that APHIS will study in the draft EIS, along with definitions that APHIS plans to use in the draft EIS.

APHIS is considering amending its biotechnology regulations pertaining to introductions of the products of biotechnology that may pose plant pest or noxious weed risks to reflect lessons learned from regulating biotechnology products since 1987, reflect advances in biotechnology and address comments and suggestions raised by stakeholders. This update to the regulations will increase the efficiency and precision of our regulations.

The proposed revisions would align the range of risks that may be considered under APHIS’ biotechnology regulations with both the plant pest and noxious weed authorities of the Plant Protection Act, to ensure a high level of plant health protection, improve regulatory processes so that they are more transparent to stakeholders and the public, and provide regulatory relief so that unnecessary regulatory burdens are eliminated.

APHIS will thoroughly review and consider all public input submitted during the 30 day comment period on the notice and use the information as it works to complete, and then publish, the draft programmatic EIS and the draft proposed rule later this year. The public and stakeholders will also have ample opportunity to review and comment on each of these proposed regulatory documents as APHIS determines how it will proceed.

APHIS’ notice is expected to be on display at the Federal Register February 4, 2016, and will officially publish in the Register on February 5, 2016.