UN agencies team up with Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority to fight fruit flies
United Nations agencies are helping scientists, politicians and farmers from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in their fight against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests.
Sterilized male flies are brought in through a military checkpoint between Israel and Jordan in the Arava Valley. The 7 million flies are then transported to the Dead Sea on “the only plane authorized to tick-tack between the two countries in this region where military 'no-fly zones' typically rule,” the IAEA noted in a news release.
Twice a week, Steve Carrigan becomes the friendly “fly bomber,” releasing swarms of sterile male flies by air to overrun the Mediterranean Basin´s shared Valley. The “Medflies” are commercially bred for birth control; their mating yields no offspring. If left to multiply in the wild, Medflies would wreak havoc on citrus and other fruit, quickly turning crops into infested mush.
“We´re using a pest to fight a pest,” said Jordan's Minister of Agriculture, Mostafa Qrunfleh. “Together with partners, we're winning,” he added of the project, which has received support from the IAEA and FAO since the mid-1990s.
For the region's agricultural leaders, the success of the Medfly project feeds hopes. “As much as this may sound remarkable, the Medfly acts as a bridge to peace,” Israel's Minister of Agriculture, Shalom Simhon, said. “We're working together to protect our shared region.”
The IAEA and FAO first helped to set up pilot projects and supply sterile male Medflies to Israel and Jordan in 1998, four years after the two countries signed a peace treaty and related cooperation agreements. The Palestinian Authority joined the partnership one year later, and now has the capacity to adopt the technology. The IAEA funded the partnership for many years, as did the United States, including a four-year, $2.5 million grant.