USDA Announces Availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement an d Preliminary Pest Risk Assessment for GE Citrus Tristeza Virus Permit

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May 10, 2018

Dear BRS Stakeholder,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announces the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for public review and comment. This document comprehensively evaluates the environmental impacts that may result from the potential approval of a permit application from Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery, LLC, for the environmental release throughout Florida of genetically engineered (GE) Citrus tristeza virus (CTV). We are also making available a preliminary Pest Risk Assessment (PRA) that analyzes the plant pest risks associated with using this GE plant virus as a biological control agent. The purpose of the proposed permit is to use GE CTV as a biological control agent to help manage citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB).

HLB is a devastating disease for the citrus industry. It reduces yield, causing misshapen or small green fruit and renders the fruit bitter and unmarketable, while at the same time causing citrus trees to die. HLB is always preceded by the appearance of an insect known as the Asian citrus pysllid (ACP), which introduces a disease-causing bacterium into the plant. Presently, tree removal and intensive insecticide applications as soon as ACP is detected are the only available management options for HLB. These options are unlikely sustainable.

This notice may be viewed in the Federal Register. Beginning tomorrow, the public will be able to submit comments on the dEIS and preliminary PRA for 45 days through June 25, 2018, at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2017-0018.

APHIS will thoroughly review and consider all public input submitted during the comment period, and use the information as we work to complete, and then publish, the final EIS (fEIS). There will be another opportunity for public comment after publication of the fEIS, prior to APHIS issuing a Record of Decision.