Agricultural Biotechnologies
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Rearing improved sterile male strains for the sterile insect technique

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in cooperation with FAO, has been researching and improving the sterile insect technique (SIT) for the last 60 years to help countries combat diseases that insects carry. The SIT uses ionising radiation to sterilize male insects which are then released into target areas to breed with wild females, that then do not produce any offspring. The daily production and release of millions of sterile males that are healthy and can compete against wild males is key to a SIT programme’s success. To assist in this area, an IAEA/FAO coordinated research project entitled “Comparing rearing efficiency and competitiveness of sterile male strains produced by genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies” was undertaken from 2015 to 2019, involving 18 scientists from 13 countries. Its aims were to develop novel genetic sexing strains (i.e. strains that make it possible to release sterile males only) or refine existing ones; perform quality control analysis of different strains, mainly in respect to their rearing efficiency and mating competitiveness; and assess the genetic stability of the strains. A recent IAEA news story reports that the results of the project’s research have been published in a collection of open-access journal articles. See the news story, in English and Spanish, at or contact [email protected] for more information.