On March 6, 2012, APHIS implemented enhancements to the way it solicits public input on petitions. APHIS previously published 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 closed, APHIS reviewed all written comments received during the comment period and any other relevant information, then prepared and published final decisionmaking documents accordingly.
With the enhanced process, there are two opportunities for public involvement:
Once APHIS deems a petition complete, we make it available for public comment for 60 days before we prepare an EA* and PPRA. We announce the availability of the petition for public comment in a Federal Register notice.
This first comment opportunity is for the public to raise issues regarding the petition itself, providing input for APHIS to consider as we develop the EA and PPRA.
If APHIS determines that an EA provides ample analysis, we develop an EA and PPRA and publish a second Federal Register notice announcing their availability for another public comment opportunity. This second notice also announces 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 the EA, finding of no significant impact (FONSI), and PPRA, we publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a preliminary regulatory determination and the availability of these documents for a 30-day public review period.
If no information is received that warrants substantial changes to APHIS' analysis or determination, APHIS' preliminary regulatory determination becomes effective upon public notification through a stakeholder message and an announcement on our website. No further Federal Register notice is 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.
After developing a draft EA and draft PPRA, APHIS announces their availability for a 30-day public comment period in a Federal Register notice. We review and evaluate the comments received and other relevant information, revise the PPRA as needed, and prepare a final EA.
Following preparation of these documents, APHIS approves or denies the petition, announcing the regulatory status of the GE organism and the availability of the final EA, PPRA, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision document, and regulatory determination in a Federal Register notice.
A Federal Register notice published on March 6, 2012, describes enhancements to stakeholder input in more detail.
*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.