United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Strengthening regional fruit fly surveillance and control in Latin America and the Caribbean through the integration of the Sterile Insect Technique


    In Latin America and the Caribbean, the presence of endemic and invasive fruit flies, such as the medfly and the Bactrocera scutellate, has taken a toll on the fruit and vegetable industry. These pests reduced the production volume by up to 30% and increased costs for control measures and treatments required for exports, resulting in considerable economic losses. In 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), launched a three-year project to strengthen existing efforts to control fruit pests in the region through the integration of the sterile insect technique (SIT) with other control methods.


    The project aimed to strengthen regional fruit fly surveillance and control capacities for native and non-native fruit flies with a view to increasing the production and quality of fruits and foster rural livelihoods and national food security. The sterile insect technique is an environmentally-friendly insect pest control method involving the mass-rearing and sterilization, using radiation, of a target pest, followed by the systematic area-wide release of the sterile males over defined areas, where they mate with wild females resulting in no offspring and a declining pest population. Additionally, the project promoted regional coordination through a series of harmonized guidelines for the surveillance and control of invasive pest species and partnerships, as well as the development of 14 official agreements for the export of commodities.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The project has contributed to SDGs 2, 3, 12 and 17 through strengthening regional capacities, self-reliance, and self-sustainability in fruit fly surveillance and control through the promotion of regional coordination and partnerships which resulted in increased agricultural productivity and incomes of fruit producers. The integration of the SIT with other control methods reduced the use of chemical insecticides which are harmful to beneficial insects and the health of people. Moreover, the improved control of fruit pests has led to increased fruit quality and reduced food losses.

    Implementation methodologies

    The project has been identified in close engagement with IAEA Member States in the Latin America and the Caribbean region that are parties to the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL) in response to the Regional Strategic Profile 2016-2021, ARCAL’s mid-term strategy document. The planning and implementation of the project involved national plant health institutions, linked to the Ministries of Agriculture of 19 IAEA Member States in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. IAEA assistance addressed common regional needs and obstacles, while simultaneously responding to the unique capacity building requirements of each participating Member State. Between 2016 and 2019, 19 expert missions, 11 regional meetings and two regional training events were held across the region to embed processes and harmonize technical procedures in the region, which underpin the area-wide integrated pest management approach with an SIT component. Additionally, participating countries were provided with geolocation and specialized laboratory equipment to support effective fruit fly surveillance and identification systems. To ensure surveillance and control measures were deployed in a timely manner, a Trapping Model based on existing risk factors, as well as a Regional Database on Fruit Fly Surveillance using specific traps were made available in strategic sites within infested areas. Action Plans against Invasive Fruit Fly Species and a Guide for the Identification of Major Fruit Fly Species were disseminated for regional coordination.


    Five areas were declared fruit fly free or ‘low prevalence’ areas. Overall, fruit fly surveillance systems were strengthened in 90% of the participating Member States. The consolidation of a regional surveillance network has enabled the participating Member States to detect any incursions by invasive fruit fly species quickly and accurately, and to respond rapidly to prevent or address outbreaks. The Mediterranean fruit fly was eradicated in the Dominican Republic in 2017, after the official reporting of its presence in 2015, benefitting the national horticultural industry and protecting the plant resources of the whole Caribbean region and neighbouring mainland countries (Mexico and the USA). The export market in the Dominican Republic was reopened with a return to pre-outbreak export levels. Additionally, the Bactrocera pest was eradicated within seven months. A total area of 473,000 hectares of cultivated hosts is presently protected from Bactrocera scutellata in Colima, Mexico.

    Factors and Constraints

    The Agency has regional/cooperative agreements with specific groups of Member States and within regions to strengthen and enlarge the contribution of nuclear science and technology to socioeconomic development. One of the key aims of these agreements is to enhance self-reliance in the use of nuclear science and technology in the regions and countries through strengthened collaboration, exchange of experience and support among members that are part of the agreement. One of these agreements is ARCAL, that addresses crucial development priorities in the region.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Fruit pest problems are transboundary and require an integrated pest management approach. The integration of the SIT is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly control method to suppress and, in some cases, eradicate fruit fly populations and can be replicated elsewhere. The SIT is a birth control technique – when sterile males mate with fertile wild females, there is no reproduction. When the sterile males are released continuously over a long period of time, the population is reduced until it eventually disappears. Integrated with other control methods, the SIT has been successful in controlling a number of high-profile insect pests, including fruit flies (Mediterranean fruit fly, Mexican fruit fly, oriental fruit fly, melon fly); tsetse fly; New World Screwworm; moths(codling moth, pink bollworm, false codling moth, cactus moth, and the Australian painted apple moth); and mosquitoes.

    COVID-19 Impact


    Contact Name
    International Atomic Energy Agency
    Geographical coverage

    Latin America and the Caribbean

    01 January 2016 (start date)
    31 December 2019 (date of completion)
    More information
    Dominican Republic
    Dominican Republic
    Contact Information

    Sonja, Programme Management Assistant