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Nuclear technology will help Mexico eradicate invasive pests

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), one of Mexico’s most devastating fruit and vegetable pests has been eradicated in Colima.

In collaboration with the IAEA and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), scientists eradicate flies, more commonly known as fruit flies, using a nuclear-based sterile insect technology (SIT) developed by the United Nations. I was able to do.

A colima outbreak detected in Manzanillo, the country’s largest port, in April 2021 posed an immediate risk to crops such as guavas, mangoes, papaya and oranges.

Without immediate action, Mexico, the world’s seventh-largest producer and exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables, could face quarantine restrictions imposed by the pest-free state.

It would have taken a toll on trade across a sector that generates over $9.2 billion in exports annually and millions of local jobs.

After receiving an urgent request for assistance in April, the IAEA and FAO immediately dispatched experts to help set up and evaluate how the SIT would be deployed.

Walther Enkerlin Hoeflich, FAO/IAEA entomologist, said of the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency technology developed for its members: States through the Joint FAO/IAEA Center for Nuclear Technology in Food and Agriculture.

When the female of the bigeye flies lays eggs on ripe fruit, it affects the quality of the product, making it inedible and unsuitable for sale.

To control the outbreak, Mexico developed and implemented an emergency action plan with the assistance of FAO/IAEA experts provided through the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme.

Scientists released more than 1.45 billion sterile male flies in Colima using an environmentally friendly SIT pest control method that uses irradiation to kill the insects.

After the males were released, when they mated with wild females, no offspring were born, ultimately leading to the eradication of the insect.

“Mexico has successfully maintained its status as a fly-free country in the Mediterranean,” said Francisco Ramirez, director of plant health at the National Service for Health, Safety and Quality of Mexican Agri-Food (SENASICA).・I Ramirez said. Pest eradication in Colima.

In collaboration with FAO and with IAEA support in Chiapas, Mexico, on the southeastern border with Guatemala, the world’s second largest Mediterranean Drosophila facility opened earlier this year.

It is the second largest in the world and has the capacity to produce one billion flies per week, helping to keep the country’s growing agricultural pests harmless.

It focuses on the mass production of sterile insects and, along with the El Pino facility in Guatemala, helps maintain containment barriers that prevent the introduction and spread of pests to northern Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.

The IAEA will continue to support and collaborate with Mexico through national and regional technical cooperation projects and through the IAEA Cooperation Center, the National Drosophila Programme.

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