FAO/IAEA International Conference on Area-Wide Control of Insect Pests
A press conference will be held on Monday May 9, at 10.35 a.m. at the Vienna International Centre, Press Briefing Room, C03, following the opening of the International Conference on Area-Wide Control of Insect Pests organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Environment-friendlier alternatives to the use of insecticides, such as various biological control methods, including the sterile insect technique (SIT), are finding growing favour as part of an integrated pest management approach to reducing the estimated 25-35 per cent losses to global food output caused by insect pests.
The theme of the conference is area-wide integrated pest management, which targets a pest population throughout its entire geographic range. Such a coordinated approach, as opposed to conventional field-by-field strategy, is achieving sustainable agriculture, opening an international market to agricultural products and protecting the environment and biodiversity. It is key to the success of methods such as SIT, where factory-bred insects are sterilized with gamma-radiation before systematic release over target areas to limit wild population reproduction.
The SIT, in whose development the Vienna-based Joint FAO/IAEA Division and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory in Seibersdorf have played a key role for more than 40 years, has been successfully applied against major insect pests on all continents and is now being employed commercially in a number of regions, including Europe for the first time. Commercial Mediterranean fruit fly breeding centres have recently opened in Israel and South Africa, while the world's largest insect breeding centre in Guatemala produces over 2 billion sterile Mediterranean fruit fly males per week.
The five day conference, expected to be attended by over 300 experts from 92 States and eight international organizations, will address lessons learned and discuss why the area-wide approach to insect pest control has proved so successful in some countries, but not in others.
It will also address issues related to invasive species and biodiversity, human and animal health, regulation, commercialisation, new technical developments, and discuss the potential role for genetically modified insects in area wide integrated pest management.
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