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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #270699

Research Project: Biologically Based Management of Invasive Insect Pests and Weeds

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Title: Opportunities for improving risk communication during the permitting process for entomophagous biological control agents: A review of current systems

item Paraiso, Oulimathe
item Kairo, Moses T. K.
item Hight, Stephen
item Leppla, Norm
item Cuda, James
item Owens, Marcia
item Olexa, Michael

Submitted to: Biocontrol
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/3/2012
Publication Date: 2/1/2013
Citation: Paraiso, O., Kairo, M., Hight, S.D., Leppla, N.C., Cuda, J.P., Owens, M., Olexa, M.T. 2013. Opportunities for improving risk communication during the permitting process for entomophagous biological control agents: a review of current systems. Biocontrol. 58(1):1-15.

Interpretive Summary: Biological control is the practice of controlling a non-native pest species with a natural enemy that attacks only that pest. Researchers study the natural enemy to insure that non-target species are not harmed and present their information in an application to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). If APHIS decides that the natural enemy is safe and justified, then they issue a permit to the applicant to bring the biological control agent into the USA. Many researchers and applicants are frustrated with the current permitting system conducted by APHIS. Scientists with USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Tallahassee, FL, Florida A&M University, and the University of Florida are looking into ways to improve this APHIS permitting process. A survey identified criticisms of the APHIS permitting system, and communication issues were at the heart of applicants’ frustration. Recommendations were made to improve communication practices during the permitting process, including increased frequency of information distribution through a variety of traditional media and increased involvement of cooperative extension officers in educating user groups. Also, a general outline is presented of a transparent, time-limited, and accessible permitting evaluation system created with input from applicants.

Technical Abstract: Concerns about potentially irreversible non-target impacts from the importation and release of entomophagous biological control agents (BCAs) have resulted in increasingly stringent import requirements by National Plant Protection Organizations. Despite numerous scientific publications on the potential risks associated with importation and release of BCAs, there still are divergent opinions among regulators, researchers, environmentalists, and the general public on ways to appropriately manage associated potential environmental risks. One approach that might narrow the opinion gap would be through the implementation of a comprehensive and effective risk communication process initiated among all relevant parties. Our study uses the U.S. regulatory system for entomophagous BCAs as a case study to explore opportunities for improving the risk communication processes. It does this by examining communication habits of stakeholders involved in biological control. We also characterize how phytosanitary decisions are communicated to stakeholders by the U.S. regulatory agency decision-makers. Our results identified communication channels, frequencies, and sources of information as key areas of risk communication that need improvement to facilitate risk assessment during the biological control decision making process.