The 60-day public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa ends on Feb. 16.
Even so, there's still some uncertainty about when USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will finally give the go-ahead to put the genetically engineered crop back on the market.
The first step for APHIS after the comment period closes will be to review and evaluate all the comments. How long that takes will depend on the volume of comments. Within the first three weeks of announcing that the comment period had opened, APHIS received more than 300 comments.
After reviewing and responding to the comments, APHIS will prepare a final EIS. By law, the finalized document will go through a 30-day public inspection period.
Next, the agency will publish the EIS and then wait another 30 days before issuing a final record of decision.
APHIS originally deregulated RR alfalfa in 2005. But in early 2007, a federal court in California ordered sales and plantings of RR alfalfa seed to be discontinued until the agency had completed an EIS.
In a December 2009 press release announcing completion of the draft EIS, APHIS noted that "the court did not overturn APHIS' 2005 conclusions regarding the safety of RR alfalfa for food and feed purposes, but rather concluded that APHIS had not documented potential, or lack of potential environmental impacts.”
In the same release, APHIS also stated that it had determined there would be "no significant impact on the human environment due to granting non-regulated status to RR alfalfa.”