USDA just announced they are set to publish their 2,300-plus page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the Federal Register, nearly four years after U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer halted the sale of Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Publication of the EIS satisfies the Ninth Circuit Court ruling by Judge Breyer and enables USDA to make a decision about deregulating Roundup Ready Alfalfa. USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expects the document will be available for public review on December 23.

In reviewing Roundup Ready Alfalfa's position in the marketplace, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) considered three alternatives in the final preparation of the final EIS:

• To maintain the Roundup Ready Alfalfa's status as a regulated article

• To deregulate Roundup Ready Alfalfa

• To deregulate Roundup Ready Alfalfa with geographic restrictions and isolation distances for the production of Round Ready Alfalfa

USDA officials thoroughly analyzed the three options and ruled out keeping Roundup Ready Alfalfa a regulated crop. The agency plans to decide between the remaining options following a public comment period.

"APHIS will make its decision in a forthcoming Record of Decision, no sooner than 30 days after the final EIS is published in the Federal Register," said Secretary Vilsack when discussing the next steps in the process. "During this time, the public will have the opportunity to review the final EIS."

Biotechnology holds great promise for agriculture in the United States and around the world, noted Secretary Vilsack. There's absolutely no doubt of the safety of the many products USDA's regulatory system has approved, he went on to say.

"When USDA makes a decision about deregulation of Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA), Forage Genetics International will be ready to sell RRA seed to growers," said Mark McCaslin in a statement following Secretary Vilsack's press conference.

Click here to review a copy of the EIS provided to the EPA