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Fruit fly will help international trade

Staff writer |
A new discovery found that four of the world's most destructive agricultural pests are the same fruit fly, which could help ease certain international trade restrictions, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

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According to the newly released study in the journal Systematic Entomology, the so-called Oriental, Philippine, Invasive and Asian Papaya fruit flies all belong to the same biological species, Bactrocera dorsalis, which has caused incalculable damage to horticultural industries and food security across Asia, Africa, the Pacific region and parts of South America.

"Globally, accepting these four pests as a single species will reduce barriers of international trade, improve pest management and facilitate transboundary international cooperation," said Mark Schutze, the study's leading researcher from the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Center (PBCRC).

It will bring about "more effective quarantine measures, the wider application of established post-harvest treatments, improved fundamental research and, most importantly, will enhance food security for some of the world's poorest nations," said Schutze, also research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Keeping exotic fruit flies out is a major concern for many countries, the FAO said. The study's findings mean that trade restrictions linked to the fruit fly should now fall away in cases where the insect is present in both the importing and exporting country, according to Jorge Hendrichs from the Joint FAO/IAEA research project.

"This outcome has major implications for global plant biosecurity, especially for developing countries in Africa and Asia," Schutze said.

Taking Africa as an example, invasive fruit fly has led to widespread trade restrictions from Asia, Europe and Japan, causing significant economic and social losses, he added.

The findings will also simplify techniques like the use of sterilized males to prevent the growth of pest populations.

The study was coordinated by the FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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