Areas of Work

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division The Insect Pest Control section develops and transfers environmentallyfriendly methods for the integrated area-wide control of key insect pests, such as fruit flies and moths, as well as disease-transmitting tsetse flies and mosquitoes. It is renowned worldwide for its work on the sterile insect technique (SIT).

The section is a global leader in the development and implementation of sterile insect and related biologicallybased techniques. They are environmentally-friendly and therefore more sustainable methods for managing the populations of major insect pests of crops and those insects causing animal or human diseases. It achieves its mandate through strategic and applied research, technology transfer, capacity building, policy advice, and information management.

With the increasing intensification of agriculture, pre- and post-harvest losses to insects and other pests remains unacceptably high. At the same time, disease transmission by insect vectors continues to affect millions of humans and livestock. The development of resistance to pesticides by insect pests is also a growing concern. Furthermore, there is an increasing awareness of the negative effects of insecticides to public health, beneficial organisms and the environment, resulting in a growing demand for more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

The efforts of the Insect Pest Control section are therefore focused on enhancing food security through area-wide approaches that reduce losses and pesticideuse, protect ecosystem services and preserve biological diversity, resulting in more sustainable agricultural systems. Efforts also address the increasing problem of invasive insect pests, and promote the development and capacity of animal health and plant protection services in Member States to apply sanitary and phytosanitary standards. This facilitates increased trade among Member States in food and agricultural commodities providing farmers with access to new international markets.

The SIT is a type of birth control for insects, involving the mass-rearing and sterilizing of large numbers of the target pest insect by subjecting them to ionizing radiation. The sterile insects are then released systematically and preferentially by air over infested target areas where they mate with fertile wild females of the pest population, who then fail to produce offspring. If sterile males outnumber wild males, the wild population can be suppressed. In special situations where the pest population is isolated, the pest population may eventually be eradicated as a result of committed area-wide campaigns that integrate different pest control methods, including the systematic release of sterile insects.

For more information visit Insect Pest Control website.