Sterile Insect Technique and EIA

Insect control is vital in crop and animal production. Despite the development and availability of various control techniques, insect pests remain a major reason of food shortage, and a main contributor to human and livestock diseases worldwide.

Insecticides are widely used to control insect pests. However, such a control method is environmentally unsafe and costly. Additionally, many insect species have developed resistance to diverse insecticides (Hains, 1977). Thus, more than ever, there is a need to find alternative control methods to avoid these problems. A number of these methods are being developed and implemented throughout the world.  Sterile Insect technique is considered one of the alternative methods.

Sterile insect technique involves mass rearing of target insect species, releasing the reared insects after sterilization (usually using irradiation) into the field to compete with natural population of the target insect species. Sterile released insects will mate with fertile wild ones. Subsequently, infertile eggs will be produced and reduction of the natural population will be achieved (Knipling 1976).

Unlike other conventional and biological methods, SIT does not have adverse impacts on non-target organisms. Moreover, it can be integrated efficiently with other control methods and lead to a major reduction in an insect population.

Several investigations have showed that the SIT would be effective if only males were released in the target area (Makee and Saour 2004). Recently, the development of genetic sexing strain for some species allowed the elimination of the females during early production process. Thus, only sterile males are release in the field measures. This advanced technology caused reduction of SIT cost by half.

SIT has been successfully used against the screwworm fly in Mexico, the Mediterranean fruit fly in Mexico and Guatemala, the melon fly in Japan, codling moth in Canada and tsetse fly in Africa (Hendrics 2004).

When SIT is implemented great environmental benefits and major economic impacts can be achieved. SIT program for eradication of medfly from Mexico costs US$ 8 million/year; however, it has protected export markets for about US$ 1 billion/year (Hendrics 2004).

Environmental impacts Assessment 

Like any industry, SIT production facilities are subjected to the local environmental regulations.

In order to keep minor impact on biodiversity the World Bank proposed steps that should be followed to ensure efficient EIA. There are several issues that relevant to a sterile insect production facility such as (IAEA 2008):

• Control over local resources.

• Guidelines for facilities Construction.

• Impact of setting and integration into local communities including proposal for

potential affected groups

• Impact of new roads and access, transport of goods.

• Construction impacts

• Waste collection and disposal

• Wastewater collection treatment, reuse and disposal, collection, recycling systems and waste monitoring.

International Conventions and Agreements and Sterile Insects

Currently, the only binding agreement with reference to sterile insects is International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC, 1997), The Convention on Biological Diversity CBD that “prevent the movement of alien invasive species (which include quarantine pest species) into a neighbour’s territories as well as one’s own” can be deduced as supporting SIT with their directions.  Because of the lack of clear international regulation or obligation, countries may permit mass production of insect species or the transit of these species through their regions under restricted conditions,

 Guidelines for Shipment and Release of Beneficial Organisms

1n 2005 the international standard of  “Guidelines for the export, shipment, import and release of biological control agents and other beneficial organisms (IPPC 2005), particularly indicates to the need to facilitate safe export, shipment, import and release of sterile insects within a pest control programme (Quinlan and Larcher 2007).

Release of Any Exotic Species and Regional and National Laws

There are no regional or national laws that specifically address the release of sterile insects of an exotic species. There are several directives that may impact the release of sterile insects in European Union, but they are not directly stated.

The laws and regulations regarding release of insects are, not the responsibility of the production facility but rather the importing party (IAEA 2008).


Haines, C. P. (1977). The potato tuber moth Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller): a bibliography of recent litruture and review of its biology and control on potatoes in the field and in store. Rep. Trop. Prod. Inst. G 112:III, 15.

Hendrichs, J. 2004. Use of the Sterile Insect Technique Against Key Insect Pests.  Sustainable  Development International.75-79.

IAEA 2008.  ‘Model business plan for sterile insect production’. Joint FAO/IAEA program. Vienna January 2008.1-396-

Knipling, E. F. 1979. The basic principles of insect population suppression management.

USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 512. Washington, DC, USDA.

Makee,H. and G. Saour. 2004. Irradiated Females and Efficiency of Sterile Insect Technique Against Phthorimaea  operculella Zeller (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). J. Vegetable Crop Production. 10 (1): 11-22.

Quinlan, M.M. and Larcher-Carvalho, A. 2007. Tools for the trade: the international business of the SIT. In: M.J.B. Vreysen, A.S. Robinson and J. Hendrichs, eds., Area-wide control of insect pests. From research to field implementation, pp. 435-448. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer.


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