The U.S. public now has more opportunities to get involved in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) review of organisms produced through biotechnology, as reported in the Federal Register on March 6. OSF’s Arctic® apples will participate in this expanded process when the public comment process regarding our nonbrowning apples begins later this year. (This new process updates the process we described in this previous blog post.)
Under this updated process, the public will now have two opportunities to provide input to APHIS, as its staff considers requests to deregulate organisms produced through biotechnology. First, the producer’s petition requesting deregulated status, and all the related information required by APHIS, will be made available for public review and a 60-day comment period. During the second opportunity for public comment, APHIS will also post its plant pest risk assessment and environmental assessment (EA). The EA may take two forms, depending upon whether the agency determines that any substantive science-based issues have been raised. The second comment period runs 30 days.
We are told APHIS will also determine whether a petition is complete faster – from the current 2-5 years to as fast as three months. (We submitted our petition to APHIS in May 2010; the agency notified us our petition was complete in late February 2012, one year and nine months later.) This in turn will allow public involvement early in the review process.
(APHIS has depicted the entire updated review process in a flow chart; see pages 18-20 of the presentation listed here.)
We welcome this expanded public input and the added transparency that it will bring to APHIS’ meticulous review process. We are looking forward to sharing with you our deregulation petition, to show you that our science is relatively simple, our trees behave no differently than other apple trees, and our fruit are the apples you’ve always loved – just now even better because they don’t brown.
For more information about the updated APHIS review process, read the full Federal Register notice online. When APHIS opens our comment period and posts our deregulation petition for your review, we will announce that here in this blog and link to the petition on our website.