USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking comments on the approval of a corn variety genetically engineered to resist western corn rootworm and glufosinate-ammonium herbicides.

The agency is releasing a draft Plant Pest Risk Assessment concluding that Pioneer Hi-Bred’s DP23211 corn “is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to the unmodified corn.”  

A draft environmental assessment examined “potential impacts on conventional and organic corn production; the acreage and area required for U.S. corn production; agronomic practices and inputs; the physical environment; biological resources; human health and worker safety; animal health and welfare; and socioeconomic impacts,” APHIS said in its Federal Register notice. “No significant impacts were identified with the production and marketing of DP23211 corn.”

In addition to being granted nonregulated status through this determination, if finalized, new USDA regulations say that "once a specific plant developed through genetic engineering is found not to require regulation, new varieties of the plant containing the same genetic modification would similarly not be regulated," APHIS says on its website.

The documents will be available in the regulatory docket Tuesday.

It's the second time APHIS is asking for comments. The agency told Agri-Pulse that it “determined, based on its evaluation of the petition, that publishing the draft EA and draft PPRA for a 30-day comment period was the appropriate course of action.”

APHIS got four comments on the petition during the comment period, one from an individual opposed to biotechnology-derived crops “in general,” and three from industry groups generally in support of Pioneer Hi-Bred’s petition.

The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corteva Agriscience, which said the event was submitted under the previous Part 340 biotech regulations "and USDA is following its standard regulatory process for these applications." Corteva has thus far not announced its intentions for commercialization of the trait.

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In its original Federal Register notice seeking comment in 2020, APHIS noted that “agronomic performance assessments for DP23211 corn were conducted in replicated field studies at a total of 12 locations in the United States and Canada.”

Pioneer’s petition, submitted in July 2020, “states that agronomic performance of DP23211 corn is comparable to the non-genetically modified conventional counterpart and reference varieties and that these data support the conclusion that DP23211 corn lacks weediness potential and plant pest risk,” APHIS said.

In 2020, the Iowa Corn Growers Association said the trait in the new variety “will aid in the defense of the most damaging insect pest of corn in Iowa, the corn rootworm. Growers want to protect the previous generation of corn rootworm traits which contain transgenic Bt proteins. Having a new mode of action will help protect these existing Bt traits from developing resistance.”

This story was updated with a comment from Corteva.

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