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Food Safety

Invertebrate biological control agents (IBCAs) against plant pests

Invertebrates, such as insects, mites or nematodes, feeding or antagonizing on harmful organism can be used as one form of natural pest control. In order to better distinguish them from other categories of biological pest control, they are usually referred to as invertebrate biological control agents (IBCAs).

Over the last decade, there is a growing demand for natural and safer alternatives to chemical plant protection products, in the framework of a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable food system. This was also recently underpinned by the Farm to Fork Strategy.

The Farm to Fork Strategy, a flagship initiative of the European Green Deal, aims at a sustainable food system and provides for ambitious reduction targets for the use of chemical pesticides and for enhancing the provisions on Integrated Pest Management. IBCAs can be a safe alternative to chemical pesticides and their increased use is expected to contribute to achieving the objectives of the strategy.

Study requested by the 2021 Decision

Council Decision 2021/1102 requests the Commission to carry out a study analysing the current situation of invertebrate biological control agents and to identify options for improving it.

The introduction, marketing and use of biological control agents is not harmonised at Union level and the rules applied by Member States may differ considerably. These differences may negatively impact the availability and application of biocontrol agents across the Union, creating imbalances between Member States and preventing from fully exploring the potential of biological control agents for the sake of human health and the environment.

The study requested by the Council will describe the current status of introduction, evaluation, production, marketing and use of IBCAs in different EU Member States; as well as best practices from non-EU countries. It will analyse whether and where the current system can be improved, and the expected effects of different options for improvement. This analysis will include potential benefits from harmonisation of definitions, criteria or procedures to be applied under the umbrella of subsidiarity as well as a fully harmonised system of evaluation and approval, including a comprehensive risk assessment.

Objective of the study

The aim of this study is to document existing regulatory practices in the Member States and to provide a comprehensive inventory, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of the different practices.

Based on the outcome of the study, the Commission will consider what action to pursue.