Biological control, or biocontrol, is the use of a living organism, or the product of a living organism, to control the numbers of another organism, usually a pest. The potential advantages of biocontrol methods are that they are (a) sustainable and (b) very specific to the species being controlled.

Using a hormone toxin

 

In this example of possum biocontrol, a hormone toxin is used to interfere with the fertility of possums. In the short term, the hormone toxin may be distributed amongst the possum population using baits. This is expensive, because the baits would need to be re-applied.

Using a nematode worm to distribute the hormone toxin

A longer term, more sustainable option, is to distribute the toxin using a nematode worm — a parasite that is found naturally in possums and that could be used to spread the toxin amongst the possum population (if baits are used, they would need to be reapplied).

Genetically modifying the nematode worm

The nematode worm would need to be genetically modified to produce the toxin. The biotechnology in this context involves the use of one living organism (the modified nematode) to control another (possums).

    Published 1 December 2005