Using Nuclear Science to Control Pests


Around the world, farmers fight the same battles… battles against insects and other pests that not only
damage their crops, causing high losses, but also transmit diseases to millions
of livestock, and humans. At the same time, many insects
are becoming resistant to insecticides, while consumers are more aware of the negative effects
of pesticides on public health, beneficial organisms and the environment. The sterile insect technique is a type of birth control
for insect pests – that does not harm beneficial insects
and the environment. Millions of males of the insect pest are produced in special factories; sterilized with radiation, and then released into the field at regular intervals. There, they mate with their wild females, and as a result there are no offspring. If sufficient sterile males are released, the next generation will have fewer wild insect pests, and the pest population can be controlled. In situations of isolation, such pests
can eventually be eliminated. Furthermore, if neighbouring farmers
collaborate and coordinate by releasing sterile insects together, large areas can be effectively protected
from such pests. There is no environmental pollution and consumers can benefit from access
to food without insecticide residues. With proven success in controlling fruit fly
and moth pests, this technique is also being applied to livestock pests and is being developed for mosquitoes, making an important contribution to food security and enabling countries to compete in global food trade.

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