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Using Nuclear Science to Control Mosquitoes

Producer: Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture (NAFA)

Throughout the millennia, people have fought mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit. Now with globalization and with climate change, mosquitoes and diseases are spreading, mosquitoes are becoming resistant to insecticides, the diseases they carry are becoming resistant to drugs, and mass use of pesticides required for control has negative effects on public health, on beneficial organisms and on the environment. But there is another battle plan – the sterile insect technique – SIT. SIT is a type of birth control for insects. Already successful in controlling major crop and livestock insect pests, SIT is being refined and validated to control mosquitoes. Special factories rear millions of male mosquitoes, sterilize them with radiation and then release them into target areas at regular intervals. They mate with the wild females, but, as the males are sterile, there are no offspring and each successive generation will have fewer wild mosquitoes, and the population will be suppressed.

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