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Insect Pest Control Management Conference Discusses New Techniques and Approaches

(Video: FAO/IAEA)

Harmful insect pests can cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage to food and livestock and transmit diseases such as malaria or the Zika virus. Finding ways to effectively control these insect pests — including with the use of nuclear techniques when appropriate — is important for people and countries everywhere. This is now under discussion by experts at a major conference organized by the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Vienna this week.

“I greatly value the work done by the experts gathered here for this Conference to tackle harmful insect pests,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano during the his opening remarks at the Third FAO-IAEA International Conference on Area-wide Management of Insect Pests: Integrating the Sterile Insect and Related Nuclear and Other Techniques. “You are helping to strengthen food security for many millions of people. The IAEA, working with the FAO, is pleased to be your partner in helping countries to develop capacities for area-wide pest management.”

(Video: M. Klingenboeck/IAEA)

The emphasis of the conference is on area-wide integrated pest management, which is applied to whole pest populations, as opposed to conventional pest management, which is applied on a field-by-field basis.

“Uncoordinated action against parts of a pest population can lead to undesirable results, such as an incomplete suppression of the pest and even the resistance of pests against the pesticides used in traditional control methods,” said Rui Cardoso Pereira, Head of the Insect Pest Control Section at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

Implementing a holistic approach that covers an entire area integrating more than one control method is more effective, he said. “An area-wide approach targets the entire pest population in a particular space,” Cardoso Pereira said. “In the long term, it requires fewer inputs and leads to a more cost-effective and sustainable insect pest management.”

For example, an area wide approach can combine the sterile insect technique (SIT), which uses radiation, with other suppression methods like sanitation, bait stations and mass-trapping.

Watch this video to learn more about SIT.

FAO Assistant Director General Ren Wang emphasized the importance of effective pest control programmes in meeting future challenges and the Sustainable Development Goal on Zero Hunger. “Effective and sustainable pest management methods are integral components of national strategies to raise productivity to assure future global food security,” he said during his opening remarks.

Through its well-established partnership with the FAO, the IAEA has helped countries to use nuclear techniques to control insect pests, often with great success, Mr Amano said. “I have seen for myself in visits to many countries what a difference successful pest control makes to countless families and communities,” he added.

Many of the presentations will feature success stories of pest control and disease elimination from around the world. Thanks to effective pest control activities, Sri Lanka, for instance, has been able to eliminate indigenous malaria and was certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization in September 2016.

Another presentation will focus on Senegal’s efforts to eradicate the tsetse fly, which infested an area of 1,375 km2, damaging livestock and causing serious economic losses to farmers. The government’s eradication strategy combined different methods, including SIT, the use of insecticides and the establishment of an insect monitoring system. As a result, most of the wild tsetse populations in the targeted areas were either completely eliminated or reduced by more than 95%.

After the sessions, experts will share information and exchange ideas relating to the regulatory, sustainability and development aspects of area-wide integrated pest control methods in a series of panel discussions. These deliberations and conclusions will provide useful feedback for the future joint FAO/IAEA programme on addressing Member State’s needs in the rapidly evolving field of insect pest management.

Among the participants in the conference are pest control programme managers, scientists, human, animal and plant protection specialists, pest management experts, public health practitioners and medical personnel. Participants will attend six sessions and three panel discussions as well as hear presentations from 57 experts covering the following areas of insect pest management: operational area-wide programmes, mosquitoes and human health, animal health, regulatory issues and socio-economic impact, climate change, global trade and invasive species, and new developments and tools for area-wide integrated pest management.

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