Document Type


Publication Date

January 2008


Commentary. In recent decades, disagreement regarding the role of biocontrol in causing ecological damage versus its agricultural benefit has increased. Because of the historical importance of biocontrol in its agriculture and the high recent extinction rates of its endemic wildlife, Hawaii has been termed the “crucible of the debate”. A number of biocontrol programs in Hawaii and the Pacific not only failed to control target pests, but have backfired spectacularly, leading directly to range reductions and extinctions of endemic taxa. We agree with Messing that rigorous biological review is important, that minimizing inefficiency, irrationality, lack of transparency and lack of accountability in government are laudable goals, and that such decisions should be based on scientific data. However, we disagree that these processes should be expedited because “state, federal, and university entomologists recognize and appreciate that biocontrol is a largely safe and eminently cost effective method”. On the contrary, the lack of evaluation and acknowledgement of potential ecological impacts is the very reason for the “slowdown in biocontrol projects” and the “demands for more stringent host-range testing.” Messing and Wright stated that “[i]n successful biological control, the results can be dramatic,” and while we agree, we would add that in unsuccessful biological control, the results can be even more dramatic.

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