USDA responds to regulation requests regarding Kentucky bluegrass

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) made available its responses to two separate inquiries regarding the regulation of genetically-engineered (GE) Kentucky bluegrass.

Responses

In the first response, directed at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., APHIS confirmed that the Scotts GE Kentucky bluegrass variety does not fall under APHIS biotechnology authority for regulation.

In the second response, directed at the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), APHIS determined it would not regulate Kentucky bluegrass — neither Scotts GE Kentucky bluegrass nor traditional Kentucky bluegrass — as a Federal noxious weed under its authority.

In a September 2010 letter to USDA, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. sought confirmation that its Kentucky bluegrass variety, which is genetically-engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, is not regulated under APHIS’ plant pest authority in the Plant Protection Act or biotechnology regulations.

APHIS has confirmed that organisms used in generating Scotts’ variety of GE Kentucky bluegrass are not considered to be plant pests, and Scotts did not use a plant pest to genetically engineer the Kentucky bluegrass. Moreover, the glyphosate tolerance is caused by a single gene insertion, which does not create a new species of Kentucky bluegrass.

In addition, APHIS has no reason to believe that the GE Kentucky bluegrass itself is a plant pest. Accordingly, the Scotts GE bluegrass variety is not a regulated article under APHIS’ biotechnology regulations, found at 7 CFR part 340.

USDA strongly encourages Scotts, early in the research stages of GE Kentucky bluegrass, to work with industry partners and stakeholders and to develop appropriate and effective stewardship measures.

Risk

In a 2002 petition from the ICTA and CFS, the organizations asked if APHIS would regulate GE Kentucky bluegrass under its federal “noxious weed” authority in the Plant Protection Act.

In response to the petition, APHIS conducted a risk assessment to determine the level of weed risk posed by Kentucky bluegrass, and subsequently evaluated whether the impacts posed by the plant would warrant it being regulated as a federal noxious weed. As a result of its assessment, APHIS determined it would not regulate Kentucky bluegrass, GE or traditional, as a federal noxious weed.

APHIS has made all materials related to Scotts’ GE Kentucky bluegrass available at www.aphis.usda.gov, including its responses to Scotts and ICTA and CFS; the risk assessment; and other accompanying documents.

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