Biological control and sustainable food production
J. S. Bale1,*, J. C. van Lenteren2 and F. Bigler3
School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.
The use of biological control for the management of pest insects pre-dates the modern pesticide era.
The first major successes in biological control occurred with exotic pests controlled by natural enemy
species collected from the country or area of origin of the pest (classical control). Augmentative
control has been successfully applied against a range of open-field and greenhouse pests, and
Keywords:biological control; integrated pest management; sustainability;
genetically modified crops; risks; regulation.
conservation biological control schemes have been developed with indigenous predators and
parasitoids. The cost–benefit ratio for classical biological control is highly favourable (1 : 250) and for
augmentative control is similar to that of insecticides (1 : 2–1 : 5), with much lower development
costs. Over the past 120 years, more than 5000 introductions of approximately 2000 non-native
control agents have been made against arthropod pests in 196 countries or islands with remarkably
few environmental problems. Biological control is a key component of a ‘systems approach’ to
integrated pest management, to counteract insecticide-resistant pests, withdrawal of chemicals and
minimize the usage of pesticides. Current studies indicate that genetically modified insect-resistant
Bt crops may have no adverse effects on the activity or function of predators or parasitoids used in
biological control. The introduction of rational approaches for the environmental risk assessment of
non-native control agents is an essential step in the wider application of biological control, but future
success is strongly dependent on a greater level of investment in research and development by
governments and related organizations that are committed to a reduced reliance on chemical control.