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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



The Medfly is a serious pest to European producers of citrus and other fruit, who usually fight it with chemical sprays. The CLEANFRUIT project aims to develop methods to apply an alternative cropprotection system that uses sterile insect technology (SIT). SIT has already proved successful in areas of Central America, California and Florida, where large plantations are common. Trials in Madeira, Spain, and Israel have shown promise, but the technique needs to be adapted to suit the smaller, more scattered plots, and different industrial structure of European production. This EU Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) will spend three years furthering this aim.


In SIT, very large numbers of sterile male insects are raised and released to mate with wild female flies. These unions do not generate any young, so population levels plummet. Fruit protected by SIT is free from pest damage and pesticide residues are substantially reduced. Growers and consumers will both win if the price of using SIT can be made competitive.

The current SIT method is to raise insects to the pupal stage in central facilities, then transport them to the point of use to hatch into flies. The project will study how the insects are hatched and raised. It will also look at ways of transporting eggs, rather than pupae, to improve economic viability.


Current dispersal methods involve mass releases of sterile males from the air while smaller releases at ground level are achieved using paper bags. It may be more effective in some areas to disperse insects, for example, on a directed plume of air, while high-tech versions of the paper bag, perhaps biodegradable containers, suitable for smaller fields, will also be considered.

CLEANFRUIT will prepare methods of assessing the costs and benefits of using SIT to allow growers, cooperatives and local and national government agencies to assess how many sterile males will be needed in a given locality to suppress pests effectively, based on pest populations and local conditions. Too few steriles and the fruit is damaged; too many and resources are wasted.


The goal is the application of SIT Medfly to 25% of European citrus production by 2010. This can only be achieved through providing information about the new technology, protocols for its application, and by spreading news about it to affected communities.

CLEANFRUIT will conduct an awareness programme aimed at growers, fruit packers, supermarkets, consumer groups and local authorities. It will seek to persuade them to replace chemical insecticides with SIT and give them the tools to introduce it. An important feature of this process will be a manual on how to design and implement SIT programmes in Europe. The project will also produce training materials, hold seminars and introduce guidelines for practical application.

The adoption of SIT in Europe would reduce chemical residue levels in food by replacing chemical insecticides while still cutting back the pest population, thus improving human health and the quality of life. It would also support tourism and alternative land use, and other biological control programme by encouraging biodiversity.

List of Partners

  • Slovak Academy of Sciences (Slovakia)
  • InSecta (UK)
  • Liaison Committee for Mediterranean Citrus Industry (International)
  • I.V.I.A. (Spain)
  • Madeira-Med of Madeira (Portugal)
  • The Israel Cohen Institute (Israel)
  • School of Environmental Management, Imperial College (UK)
Full title:
Improving the quality of European citrus and fruit by developing Medfly SIT technology so it can be widely applied in Europe
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Charlie Rose, InSecta, or
EC Scientific Officer:
Massimo Burioni,
EU contribution:
€ 2.4M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top