The project aims to develop safer, higher quality food by implementing improved crop protection systems based on the increased use in Europe of Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). SIT is based on mass production and release of sterile male insects which mate with wild females, preventing the production of offspring, and causing the pest population to crash.
Medfly is a major pest of several key crops in Europe, notably citrus. Use of Medfly SIT in California, Florida, Mexico, Central America & Chile has shown SIT to be cost-effective, environmentally sound and a sustainable alternative to chemical insecticides. In Europe the main control method remains chemical insecticide spraying. Feasibility studies and small scale SIT trials show SIT can be used effectively in European fruit production though technical and practical obstacles hinder its widespread use. European commercial culture, geography and citrus industry structure is different from e.g. the USA. SIT requires specific adaptations and improvements to be widely adopted in Europe. By replacing chemical insecticides SIT reduces chemical residue levels in food. By effective control of the pest it reduces impacts on the food chain. By encouraging biodiversity it supports tourism and alternative land use, and other biological control programs. By controlling quarantine pests it supports exports.
<P> Of the biological methods available SIT has the greatest potential to improve the quality of fruit production in Europe (EU Standing Committee on Plant Health, 2001). 3 main advances are needed to enable the widespread adoption of SIT in Europe: <UL> <LI> Development of decentralised production based on egg-shipping technology <LI>Development of field release technologies more suitable for Europe<LI> Dissemination of tools and knowledge enabling local organisations to adopt SIT A Consortium of SIT experts will develop technical/scientific tools and measures to address these issues.</ul>
For more information about this project, please visit the <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/food_quality/projects/028_en.ht…; target="_blank">European Commission Food Quality and Safety in Europe</a> Web site.