Molecular Technologies to Improve the Effectiveness of SIT


To move transgenic insect technology from the laboratory gradually towards the field for the eventual management of insect pests through the improvement of the Sterile Insect Technique.


The past ten years have seen an explosion in the use of molecular biology in all biological sciences; especially in the fields of medicine and agriculture and particular emphasis has been placed on gene transfer technology. The recognition that the development of gene transfer techniques in pest insects may lead to improvements in the Sterile Insect Techique, encouraged the Joint FAO/IAEA Division to support and co-ordinate activities in this field by funding two CRPs. Scientific progress in the field is now such that transgenic technology in pest insects can be moved from the laboratory to initial evaluations of strains under operational conditions of large scale rearing and in contained field-cage situations to assess mating competitiveness of the transgenic strains. This CRP addresses these areas with the objective of delivering improved transgenic strains for eventual use in SIT programmes.

The two previous CRPs have provided the groundwork for this new research projectsal that will facilitate moving the field of the use of transgenic insects from the laboratory towards field application. During the implementation of the previous CRP highly efficient vectors for pest insect transformation have been developed and widely applicable transformation markers have been identified. These developments have made the screening of putative transgenic individuals in any pest species extremely efficient and have led to the creation of transgenic strains in more than 10 pest insect species. In many pest insects molecular analyses of important gene systems have produced useful biological reagents for the development of transgenic strains. The project will involve transfer of transgenic strains to larger rearing situations, evaluation in contained field-cage conditions and initial model studies on the impact of transgenic insects on the environment.

This CRP also begins the first major studies on the biological fitness of transgenic insects. Whilst not directly focused on risk assessment issues, the data produced will be of considerable importance to the development of a regulatory framework for any eventual open field release of transgenic insects. In order to maximize the chance that transgenic technology can be effectively transferred to field programmes, participation of operational SIT managers, regulators, ecologists and other stakeholders will be encouraged.


Six Contract Holders from China, Greece (3), India, and Thailand, and nine Agreement Holders from Australia, Italy (2), Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom (2) and United States (2).


  • The final Evaluation Report [pdf] summarizes achievements under this six-year CRP (2003-2008), and shows the list of publications [pdf] prepared during the CRP by participating researches.
  • The final proceedings of this CRP are published in an special issue of the journal Genetica and include an additional collection of peer-reviewed scientific publications.