The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has announced its intention to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating the impacts that may result from the potential approval of an application from Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery, seeking a permit for the environmental release of genetically engineered Citrus tristeza virus (CTV). The virus has been genetically engineered to express defensin proteins from spinach as an approach to manage citrus greening disease in Florida.
The CTV acts as delivery mechanism to deliver the spinach protein into the tree where it acts against the greening bacteria. Because the virus vector is used to introduce the spinach protein into the tree, it would not be considered or labeled as a genetically modified crop, an important distinction given consumer perceptions surrounding GMOs.
The EIS will address issues such as environmental, biological, human health impacts and more. Stakeholders and the public may comment on the notice posted on the Federal Register. Comments will be accepted until May 10, 2017.