Arctic® apples are continuing their steady progress towards deregulation and commercialization, with the second U.S. public comment period expected to open this spring. This past year, we saw public comment periods in both Canada (May-July) and the U.S. (July-Sept.) successfully conclude, receiving over 5,000 comments in total.
It was certainly an eventful 2012, but we expect 2013 to be even more “fruitful”, and here’s why:
While the first 60-day U.S. public comment shared our 163 page petition requesting deregulation, two new documents will be made publically available for the second comment period. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will be posting their Plant Pest Risk Analysis (PPRA) and Environmental Assessment (EA) of Arctic apples for public review. These two documents and the accompanying comment period represent one of the final steps before Arctic® apples can be deregulated in the United States.
Plant Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA): After carefully reviewing the petition for deregulation and extensive supporting data, APHIS will publish a document that states whether or not they believe Arctic® apples will pose a plant pest risk. Their thorough analysis includes consideration of current scientific literature, as well as a complete assessment of potential plant pest risks from the new variety, any weedy characteristics, atypical responses to disease or plant pests, possible effects on beneficial organisms in the ecosystem and the potential for horizontal gene flow. If they do not believe that the crop under consideration poses any unusual risks APHIS recommends deregulation. We have been given every indication that APHIS will conclude that Arctic apples will be deregulated.
Environmental Assessment (EA): Similarly, APHIS must determine whether a biotech crop being considered for deregulation has any significant environmental impact. If the crop is determined to behave like its conventional counterpart, it is granted a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) and environmental release is permitted. As with the PPRA, we do not expect APHIS to identify any environmental issues with Arctic® apples, and rightfully so.
Keep your eyes open for an update, likely sometime this spring, when these two documents will be posted online, providing the final opportunity for you to submit your supportive comments to USDA for Arctic® apples.
We are hopeful to receive official deregulation for Arctic® apples shortly after this comment period concludes. That means we’re closer than ever to bringing Arctic® apples to the market, thanks in large part to the support of individuals like you!