A comparison of ecological elements of current safety assessments and regulationof microbial and invertebrate biocontrol agents


Abstract: Current regulations and safety assessments for biological control agents (BCAs) differmarkedly among agents based on invertebrate animals (e.g. insects, mites, nematodes; IBCAs)versus microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi, viruses; MBCAs). Non-indigenous IBCAs areregulated in several countries through quarantine legislation for prevention of introduction ofalien organisms, whereas indigenous IBCAs are not generally regulated. In contrast, all MBCAsfall under legislation similar to chemical pesticides and need pre-market authorisation. Currentemphasis on ecotoxicological effects of MBCAs has resulted in unnecessarily complicated,expensive and less relevant risk assessments and contributes to a very slow implementation ofMBCAs. The potential ecological hazards are similar between the two groups of BCAs, and theenvironmental safety of both groups is therefore most pertinently evaluated according tobiological and ecological principles. Development of mutual systems for the regulatory oversightof all living BCAs should be considered. One research area that needs to be further explored is towhat degree MBCAs persist and spread to surrounding areas. Another is the extent to which useof MBCAs actually results in increased exposure of non-targets to microorganisms, compared to“normal” background exposure. Finally, increased knowledge of the biogeography and microbialecology of representative MBCAs would facilitate determining whether a certain microbe isindigenous or not. Native MBCAs should generally not need the same ecotoxicological oversightas exotics, as is the present case with native IBCAs.

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