Beginning March 6, 2012, APHIS will implement enhancements to the way it solicits public input on petitions. APHIS currently publishes a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the petition, APHIS' plant pest risk assessment (PPRA), and APHIS' draft environmental assessment (EA) for a 60-day public comment period. After the comment period closes, APHIS reviews all written comments received during the comment period and any other relevant information, and prepares and publishes final decisionmaking documents accordingly.
With the enhanced process beginning March 6, 2012, there will be two opportunities for public involvement:
Once APHIS deems a petition complete, the petition will be made available for public comment for sixty days before an EA* and PPRA are prepared. This availability of the petition for public comment will be announced in a Federal Register notice.
This first comment period provides the public an opportunity to raise issues regarding the petition itself, providing input that will be considered by the Agency as it develops its EA and PPRA.
Assuming an EA is sufficient, the EA and PPRA will be developed and a notice of their availability will be published in a second Federal Register notice. This second notice will announce one of two approaches for the petition.
Approach 1. For GE organisms that do not raise substantive new issues
Includes organisms with gene modifications that do not raise new biological, cultural, or ecological issues due to the nature of the modification or APHIS' familiarity with the recipient organism.
After developing its EA, finding of no significant impact (FONSI), and PPRA, APHIS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing its preliminary regulatory determination and the availability of the EA, FONSI, and PPRA for a 30-day public review period.
If no information is received that would warrant substantially changing APHIS analysis or determination, APHIS' preliminary regulatory determination will become effective upon public notification through an announcement on its website. No further Federal Register notice will be published announcing the final regulatory determination.
Approach 2. For GE organisms that raise substantive new issues not previously reviewed by APHIS
Includes recipient organism that has not previously been determined to have nonregulated status, or gene modifications that raise biological, cultural, or ecological issues not previously analyzed by APHIS.
APHIS will solicit comments on its draft EA and draft PPRA for 30 days, as announced in the Federal Register notice. APHIS will review and evaluate comments and other relevant information, after which it will revise the PPRA as necessary and prepare a final EA.
Following preparation of these documents, APHIS will either approve or deny the petition, announcing in the Federal Register the regulatory status of the GE organism and the availability of APHIS' final EA, PPRA, National Environmental Policy (NEPA) decision document, and regulatory determination.
Enhancements to stakeholder input are described in more detail in a Federal Register notice published on March 6, 2012.
*APHIS may decide, based on the public's input and other factors, that an environmental impact statement (EIS) is necessary, in which case APHIS will complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) EIS process in accordance with Council on Environmental Quality regulations and APHIS' NEPA implementing regulations.