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USDA Seeks Comments on Biotech Regulations

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is considering revisions to biotech regulations.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the availability Thursday of a draft environmental impact statement that evaluates potential revisions to existing regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms.

"Over the past 15 years, APHIS has regularly reviewed and revised its biotechnology regulations to ensure they remain grounded in the latest science and are robust enough to keep pace with the demands of technology," said W. Ron DeHaven, administrator of APHIS.

In January 2004, APHIS publicly announced it was beginning a review of its regulations and published a notice of intent to prepare an EIS. The notice identified potential issues and alternatives to be studied in the EIS and requested public comment to further shape the scope of the issues and alternatives.

The draft outlines several key areas APHIS is evaluating and seeking public comments on, including expanding APHIS' regulatory scope through additional provisions in the Plant Protection Act of 2000, utilizing a tiered permitting system based on potential environmental risk and implementing a process for continued oversight of crops that do not meet the criteria for deregulation.

APHIS is scheduling three public meetings in August in the Washington, D.C. area, Missouri and California, to allow interested parties to express their views in person.

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