16 July 2003, Rome -- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will help seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe to control the spread of the Western Corn Rootworm, a major threat to corn production in the region.

A US$ 2 260 000 regional project was signed today in Rome by the FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation, Henri Carsalade, the Italian Director-General for Development Cooperation, Giuseppe Deodato, and representatives from the ministries of agriculture of the European countries.

During the next three years, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Slovak Republic will benefit from the 20-year experience of FAO in participatory Integrated Pest Management programmes (IPM).

The project aims to enable farmers to monitor and control the pests in their fields, keeping the use of expensive and potentially damaging and dangerous chemical pesticides to an absolute minimum.

This initiative will help national authorities to develop national IPM programmes, using participatory research and training approaches, to effectively manage this pest at field level and contain its spread before it becomes a major threat to corn production in the region.

Improving food security in the region

Funded by the Italian Government, this initiative is the second of its kind to focus on regional food security with support from the FAO Trust Fund for Food Security.

The US$ 500 million Trust Fund was created by FAO's Director-General Jacques Diouf following the World Food Summit to provide new impetus to the global fight against hunger.

Italy has been the first among FAO's member countries to respond to this appeal and has committed itself to providing 100 million euros of which 50 million euros have already been received.

"This application of funds donated by Italy will make an important contribution to improve food security in the region," said Carsalade.

The worm from the West

The Western Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera LeConte) originated in the United States, where it remains a major corn pest.

The worm moved to Europe in the early 1990s starting in the former Yugoslavia. Since then, it has caused serious economic damage to corn production in Serbia and Montenegro, Hungary, Croatia and Romania.

In 2001, heavy presence of the worm was reported in Lombardia, Italy, and in 2002 in France.

This regional project will build on the latest Western Corn Rootworm research results from USA and Europe.

Contact:
Nuria Felipe Soria,
Information Officer, FAO
nuria.felipesoria@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 55899