Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • 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).

    End of the projects

    Significant research effort and resources were put into possum contraceptive vaccines and hormone toxins. Funding for the projects finished in September 2010.

    There was concern about the length of time required to produce results, risks associated with the biocontrol agents and potential controversy over genetic engineering.

      Published 1 December 2005, Updated 17 September 2018 Referencing Hub articles
        Go to full glossary
        Download all