WASHINGTON - Companies and researchers planning to field-test most genetically engineered plants will be allowed simply to notify the Department of Agriculture rather than apply for a permit under a rule proposed last week by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

APHIS estimates that about 99 percent of all field trials could be conducted under the proposed procedures. It estimates that cost savings for preparation of notification over preparation of a permit application will be about 95 percent.