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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 (EU) 2021/1102 requested the Commission to carry out a study analysing the current situation of invertebrate biological control agents and to identify options for improving it.

In its request, the Council stated that 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. It proceeded from the assumption that 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 was expected to 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 is expected to analyse whether and where the current system can be improved, and the expected effects of different options for improvement. This analysis may 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.

IBCA study

In carrying out the study, the European Commission was supported by an external contractor. Representatives of the Competent Authorities of all EU Member States as well as of the relevant stakeholders (representing biocontrol industry, growers and foresters, NGOs, scientific organisations and academia and international organisations) and of the Competent Authorities of two non-EU countries have been invited to provide information by means of surveys and targeted interviews.

The study provides a detailed overview of the regulatory situation in the EU countries. It also compiles the quantitative and qualitative data provided by the different stakeholders on the EU-market of invertebrate biological control agents and their use. It furthermore identifies current shortcomings and possible ways forward, in accordance with the input from stakeholders.

A letter has been sent In December 2022 by the Commission, replying to the request from Council, together with the Commission’s IBCA study. These documents have been made available to the European Parliament as well. An Executive Summary (document available soon) is available in all official languages of the EU. The underlying report produced by the external contractor is being made available by the European Commission via the EU Bookshop.