The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has prepared a plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) and a draft environmental assessment (EA) to address a request from the Monsanto Company seeking a determination of nonregulated status for corn, designated as MON 87460, that has been genetically engineered (GE) for drought tolerance.

An introduced gene called cold shock protein B, derived from the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, appears to help maintain plant cellular functions and is expected to reduce yield loss under water-limited conditions compared to conventional corn. Corn event MON 87460 is currently regulated by APHIS.

Field tests conducted under APHIS oversight allow for evaluation in a natural agricultural setting while imposing measures to minimize the risk of persistence in the environment after completion of the test. Data is gathered on multiple parameters and used by the applicant to evaluate agronomic characteristics and product performance. APHIS uses this data to determine if the new variety poses a plant pest risk.

The draft EA will provide the APHIS decision makers with a review and analysis of any potential environment impacts associated with the proposed determination of nonregulated status for MON 87460 corn.

The EA presents two alternatives based on its analyses of data submitted by Monsanto, a review of other scientific data, and field tests conducted under APHIS oversight. APHIS is considering the following alternatives: (1) take no action and keep the corn under regulation; or (2) determine nonregulated status for the corn in whole.

The analysis provided in the PPRA indicates that MON 87460 is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk. The notice of availability of the draft EA, PPRA and the petition is published in today’s May 11 Federal Register.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 11. Send a copy of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2011-0023, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2011-0023. If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet go to the Federal eRulemaking portal to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.