Technical and commercial aspects of biocontrol products


  • Based on a paper presented at the meeting ‘Biological Control: Use of Living Organisms in the Management of Invertebrate Pests. Pathogens and Weeds’, organised by the SCI Pesticides Group and held at the SCI, 14/15 Belgrave Square, London SWIX 8PS, UK on 19-20 October 1992.


The global agrochemical market in 1991 was $26800 million, yet biological products were reported to account for only $120 million of sales per annum—less than 0.5 % of the total. The majority of these sales are attributed to bio-insecticides of which Bacillus thuringiensis accounts for over 90%, but B. thuringiensis could be described as a biologically produced insecticide, rather than a true biocontrol agent. Biological products have technical limitations, including extreme specificity, sensitivity to environmental factors and problems with robustness of the formulations, but ironically, it is these limitations which also give biological control an image of environmental acceptability. Nonetheless, some of the limitations will be overcome and sales will increase, but primarily in niche situations such as the control of soil-borne diseases and the control of insect pests showing resistance to agrochemicals. In order for significant inroads to be made into such niche markets it is imperative that progress with biological products is not impaired by over-regulation, and a rational approach by all regulatory bodies is required. Overall, though, agrochemicals are likely to continue to be the major method of crop protection for the foreseeable future, and the biological control field now needs clear, well-defined goals if current successful niche products can be the basis for future success rather than a limited experiment in alternative technology.