"Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact"
This document gives notice that the Department intends to issue a
permit for release into the environment of a regulated article under
regulations issued pursuant to the Federal Plant Pest Act and the
Plant Quarantine Act. The permit is for a controlled field test of
genetically engineered tomato plants to be conducted by the DNA Plant
Technology Corporation, on a small test plot on agricultural land in
Contra Costa County, California. The request for a permit has been
thoroughly reviewed with a finding that there is no significant risk
of introduction or dissemination of a plant pest from conducting this
test as described by the DNA Plant Technology Corporation. This
document also contains an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No
Significant Impact on the environment relative to the field testing of
the genetically engineered tomato plants.
Permit Number 91-079-01
Biotechnology, Biologics, and Environmental Protection
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
James W. Glosser
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Permit Number 91-079-01: tomato; antifreeze gene; staphylococcal
I. PURPOSE AND NEED
This Environmental Assessment (EA) presents scientific data and other
information evaluated by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), prior to
issuing a permit for the introduction of an article regulated under
Title 7 Code of Federal Regulations Part 340.
A permit, number 91-079-01, was requested by the DNA Plant Technology
Corporation, Oakland, California, for a controlled field test of
genetically engineered tomato to be carried out on a small test plot
on agricultural land in Contra Costa County, California. The tomato
plants have been modified by incorporating a synthetic antifreeze gene
modeled from one isolated from the winter flounder, Pseudopluronectus
americanus. This gene encodes a fusion protein which when expressed
may lower the threshold temperature at which freezing damage to the
plant occurs. This EA is intended to provide documentation of the
APHIS review and analysis of data in which a determination was made
that this limited field trial does not pose a risk of introduction or
dissemination of a plant pest and will not have a significant impact
on the quality of the human environment.
1.2 Finding of No Significant Impact
APHIS has determined that this limited field trial, authorized by the
issuance of permit number 91-079-01, will not pose a risk of the
introduction or dissemination of a plant pest and does not present a
significant impact on the quality of the human environment. This
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is based on the following
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
- A synthetic gene that encodes an antifreeze protein fused to
Staphylococcus aureus Protein A (Protein A-Antifreeze Fusion protein
or AFF) has been inserted into the tomato chromosome. In nature,
chromosomal genetic material from plants can only be transferred to
other sexually compatible plants by cross-pollination. In this field
trial, the introduced genes cannot spread to another plant because the
test plot is located at a sufficient distance from any sexually
compatible plants with which these experimental tomato plants could
cross-pollinate. Therefore, the introduced gene will be prevented from
spreading to other plants by cross-pollination.
- Neither the introduced AFF gene itself, nor its gene product,
confers on tomato any plant pest characteristics. Traits that lead to
weediness in plants are polygenic traits and cannot be conferred by
adding a single gene.
- The organisms, P. americanus and S. aureus, from which parts of
the chimeric gene were derived are not plant pathogens.
- The vector used to transfer the AFF gene to tomato plants has been
evaluated for its use in this specific experiment and does not pose a
plant pest risk. The vector, although derived from a DNA sequence
with known plant pest potential, has been disarmed; that is, genes
that are necessary for producing plant disease have been removed from
the vector. The vector has been tested and shown not to be pathogenic
to any susceptible plants.
- The vector agent, the bacterium that was used to deliver the
vector DNA and the AFF gene into the plant cells, has been shown to be
eliminated and no longer associated with the transformed tomato
- Horizontal movement of the introduced gene is not known to be
possible. The vector acts by delivering and inserting the gene into
the tomato genome (i.e., chromosomal DNA). The vector does not
survive in the transformed plants. No mechanism that can transfer an
inserted gene from a chromosome of a transformed plant to a chromosome
of another organism has been shown to exist in nature.
- The gene product, AFF protein, acts by inhibiting ice
crystalization. The only possible phenotypic change in these
transgenic plants is a decreased susceptibility to freeze damage.
Effects on complex agronomic traits such as yield are not expected.
- DNA sequences used to regulate expression of the inserted genes in
tomato are derived from the plant pest Agrobacterium tumefaciens and
the cauliflower mosaic virus. These sequences in themselves, however,
encode no proteins, and confer no plant pest related property on the
- The test is to take place on a small field site, approximately
0.25 acre in size. The site has good security: public access is
restricted, a visual barrier of corn plants will border the
experimental blocks, and employees are on duty 7 days a week .
- At the conclusion of the test, all plant material left in the
field will be uprooted, allowed to desiccate, and then incorporated
into the soil. The site will be monitored for any volunteer plants
that may arise.