Following a request from Bayer CropScience, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced it will deregulate the company's genetically engineered LL601 (LibertyLink) trait.

The USDA agency made the announcement on Nov. 24 following what it termed a “thorough review of scientific evidence.”

The deregulation had been expected by those in the rice industry. The APHIS decision “is one result of a robust effort to restore marketability to U.S. rice,” said a USA Rice Federation press release.

“Deregulation is a necessary step in ensuring the stability and viability for U.S. rice in all markets,” said Al Montna, USA Rice Federation chairman.

“But we realize there is still a great deal more work to do.

“The APHIS decision won't automatically re-open markets currently closed to U.S. rice, but U.S. regulatory approval should help reassure customers that the U.S. government believes LL601 to be safe for consumption and the environment.”

On July 31, Bayer notified the USDA that trace amounts of LL601 had been discovered in commercial, long-grain rice. Several weeks later, USDA announced the finding and rice markets reacted negatively.

“FDA has concluded that the presence of LL601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns,” said an APHIS press release. “An investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and whether any USDA regulations were violated is nearly complete.

“Deregulation, or regulatory approval of a particular product, is handled separately from determinations of compliance with APHIS regulations. USDA has approved LL601 for deregulation, while an investigation of compliance is ongoing…

“APHIS oversees the development and introduction (importation, interstate movement and environmental release) of GE organisms. Deregulated items and their progeny are considered safe for the environment and can be grown without APHIS oversight. Developers may also need to consult with FDA and the EPA before commercialization.”

To see the final APHIS environmental assessment visit www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/06_23401p_ea.pdf.