[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 95 (Thursday, May 16, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 28796-28798]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-11580]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. APHIS-2013-0043]


Monsanto Co.; Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement for Determination of Nonregulated Status of Herbicide 
Resistant Soybeans and Cotton, and Notice of Virtual Public Meeting

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: We are announcing to the public that the Animal and Plant 
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) intends to prepare an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) on environmental impacts that may result from 
the potential approval of two petitions from the Monsanto Company 
(Monsanto) seeking a determination of nonregulated status of herbicide 
resistant soybeans and cotton. Issues to be addressed in the EIS 
include the potential environmental impacts associated with the 
increased use of certain herbicides and possible selection for and 
spread of weeds resistant to the herbicide dicamba combined with 
resistance to other herbicides (multiple resistance). We are also 
requesting public comments to further delineate the scope of the 
alternatives and environmental impacts and issues to be included in 
this EIS. We are also announcing that APHIS will be hosting a virtual 
public meeting during the scoping period. The purpose of the scoping 
meeting will be to allow the public an opportunity to comment on the 
range of alternatives and environmental impacts and issues discussed in 
the EIS.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before June 
17, 2013. We will also consider comments made at a virtual public 
meeting that will be held during the comment period.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0043-0001.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to 
Docket No. APHIS-2013-0043, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, 
APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-
1238.
    Supporting documents and any comments we receive on this docket may 
be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2013-
0043 or in our reading room, which 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) 799-7039 before coming.
    Other Information: Details regarding the virtual scoping meeting, 
including times, dates, and how to participate, will be available at 
http://www.aphisvirtualmeetings.com.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Rebecca Stankiewicz Gabel, Branch 
Chief, Biotechnology Environmental Analysis Branch, Environmental Risk 
Analysis Programs, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, APHIS, 4700 River 
Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238; (301) 851-3954. To obtain 
copies of the petition, contact Ms. Cindy Eck at (301) 851-3882, email: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Under the authority of the plant pest provisions of the Plant 
Protection Act (PPA), as amended (7 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.), 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.
    APHIS has received two petitions (referred to below as ``the 
petitions'') from the Monsanto Company (Monsanto) seeking a 
determination of nonregulated status for soybean and cotton cultivars 
genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides. The first 
petition, APHIS Petition Number 10-188-01p, seeks a determination of 
nonregulated status of soybean (Glycine max) designated as event MON 
87708, which has been genetically engineered for tolerance to the 
herbicide dicamba. The second petition, APHIS Petition Number 12-185-
01p, seeks a determination of nonregulated status of cotton (Gossypium 
spp.) designated as event MON 88701, which has been genetically 
engineered for tolerance to the herbicides dicamba and glufosinate. The 
petitions state that these articles are unlikely to pose a plant pest 
risk and, therefore, should not be regulated articles under APHIS' 
regulations in 7 CFR part 340. These part 340 regulations are 
authorized by the PPA to

[[Page 28797]]

prevent the introduction or dissemination of plant pests, and the 
decision on whether or not to approve the petitions will be based on 
this standard.
    Notices were published \1\ in the Federal Register for each 
petition advising the public that APHIS had received the petition and 
was seeking public comments on the petitions. The notices also 
announced that APHIS would prepare either an environmental assessment 
(EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) in accordance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.) (NEPA) to provide the Agency with a review and analysis of any 
potential environmental impacts associated with the petition request.
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    \1\ Docket No. APHIS-2012-0047 published on July 13, 2012, 77 FR 
41356-41357; Docket No. APHIS-2012-0097 published on February 27, 
2013, 78 FR 13308-13309. The Federal Register notices for the 
petitions and supporting and related materials, including public 
comments, are available at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0047 and http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0097.
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    Under the provisions of NEPA, Federal agencies must examine the 
potential environmental impacts of proposed major Federal actions 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment before 
those actions can be taken. In accordance with NEPA, the regulations of 
the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural 
provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and 
APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372), APHIS has 
considered how to properly examine the potential environmental impacts 
of decisions for petitions for determinations of nonregulated status. 
For each petition for a determination of nonregulated status under 
consideration in the past, APHIS prepared an EA to provide the APHIS 
decisionmaker with a review and analysis of any potential environmental 
impacts. In two cases,\2\ APHIS prepared an EIS.
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    \2\ Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request 
for Nonregulated Status, Final Environmental Impact Statement-
December 2010; Glyphosate-Tolerant H7-1 Sugar Beet: Request for 
Nonregulated Status, Final Environmental Impact Statement-May 2012.
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    In reviewing petitions for determinations of nonregulated status of 
crop cultivars genetically engineered to be resistant to various 
herbicides, APHIS has identified the potential selection of herbicide 
resistant weeds as a potential environmental impact. We have concluded 
that for the two Monsanto petitions it is appropriate to complete an 
EIS for the potential determinations of nonregulated status requested 
by the petitions in order to perform a comprehensive environmental 
analysis of the potential selection of dicamba resistant weeds and 
other potential environmental impacts that may occur as a result of 
making determinations of nonregulated status of these events. An EIS 
can examine the broad and cumulative environmental impacts of making 
determinations of nonregulated status of the two requested soybean and 
cotton cultivars, including potential impacts of the proposed action on 
the human environment, alternative courses of action, and possible 
mitigation measures for reducing potential impacts.

Alternatives

    The Federal action being considered is whether to approve the two 
petitions for nonregulated status. This notice identifies reasonable 
alternatives and potential issues that may be studied in the EIS. We 
are requesting public comments to further delineate the range of 
alternatives and environmental impacts and issues to be evaluated in 
the EIS for the two petitions. We will be hosting a virtual meeting 
during the scoping period to discuss the scope of the EIS (see 
ADDRESSES above). We are particularly interested in receiving comments 
regarding biological, cultural, or ecological issues, and we encourage 
the submission of scientific data, studies, or research to support your 
comments.
    The EIS will consider a range of reasonable alternatives. APHIS is 
currently considering four alternatives: (1) Take no action, i.e., 
APHIS would not change the regulatory status of the soybean and cotton 
events and they would continue to be regulated articles, (2) approve 
both the petitions for determinations of nonregulated status of the 
soybean event and the cotton event, (3) approve the petition for 
determination of nonregulated status of the soybean event and deny the 
petition for determination of nonregulated status of the cotton event, 
or (4) approve the petition for determination of nonregulated status of 
the cotton event and deny the petition for determination of 
nonregulated status of the soybean event.

Environmental Issues for Consideration

    We have also identified the following potential environmental 
issues for consideration in the EIS. We are requesting that the public 
provide information on the following questions during the comment 
period on this Notice of Intent (NOI):
     What are the impacts of weeds, herbicide-resistant weeds, 
weed management practices, and unmet weed management needs for crop 
cultivation, and how may these change with the approval of these 
petitions for nonregulated status of these herbicide-resistant crops?
     In which weeds would the approval of the two petitions 
likely contribute to controlling the spread of biotypes that are 
resistant to more than one herbicide mode of action and how will that 
control influence weed management strategies in cropland or managed 
non-cropland?
     What weeds are currently resistant to dicamba herbicide 
and what is their natural frequency and occurrence in soy and cotton 
crops, other crops, and in non-crop ecosystems?
     Would the increased use of dicamba associated with the 
approval of these two petitions cause an acceleration of the selection 
and spread of dicamba-resistant biotypes? Are there weeds that are more 
likely to be difficult to control if they become resistant to dicamba?
     In which crops or non-cropland weeds would the selection 
and spread of dicamba-resistant biotypes be most problematic in terms 
of available alternate weed management strategies and agronomic 
production?
     In which weeds would the approval of the two petitions 
likely contribute to the selection and spread of biotypes that are 
resistant to more the one herbicide mode of action and which would be 
most problematic for weed management strategies in cropland or managed 
non-cropland?
     What are the potential changes in agronomic practices, 
including crop rotation and weed management practices (e.g., herbicide 
use, tillage), for control of weeds in rotational crops that may occur 
with the use of these herbicide-resistant crops? What are the current 
and potentially effective strategies for management of herbicide-
resistant weeds in crops? What are the costs associated with these 
practices and strategies?
    Comments that identify other issues or alternatives that could be 
considered for examination in the EIS would be especially helpful. All 
comments received during the scoping period 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 opportunity 
to comment on it will be published in the Federal Register.


[[Page 28798]]


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

    Done in Washington, DC, this 10th day of May 2013.
Michael Gregoire,
Deputy Administrator, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Animal and 
Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-11580 Filed 5-15-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P