A biological pesticide is a biotechnical organism and can be either a biocidal product or a plant protection product. Biological control often includes natural enemies to the pest organisms to be controlled. Natural enemies can be micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi or macro-organisms such as nematodes, insects or arachnids.
Biotechnical organisms are products that consist of or contain living organisms and that are produced with the intention to be a pesticide or for other technical purpose. Some biotechnical organisms can be genetically modified, so called GMOs. Different legislations apply depending on if the biotechnical organisms consist of micro- or macro-organisms.
Micro-organisms as biological pesticides
Biological pesticides containing micro-organisms must, similarly to chemical pesticides, be authorised by the Swedish Chemicals Agency before they can be used or sold.
Plant protection products containing microorganisms are regulated in the EU Plant Protection Products Regulation. Biocidal products containing microorganisms are regulated in the EU Biocidal Products Regulation or in the Swedish Pesticide Ordinance.
Micro-organisms that are genetically modified also apply to the legislation for genetically modified organisms, GMOs.
Macro-organisms as biological pesticides
Since 1st of July 2016 biological pesticides consisting of nematodes, insects or arachnids need not a product authorisation from the Swedish Chemicals Agency. However, the species must be approved for use as pesticides. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for evaluation and approval of the species of nematodes, insects and arachnids used as pesticides.
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has approved 34 species for use as biological pesticides. All species that were authorised previously as products are now instead approved as species. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency can also decide on conditions of use. The current conditions of use which apply for each species can be found in the list of approved species on the website of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
If a biological pesticide consist of nematodes, insects or arachnids that are genetically modified, GMOs, certain legislation apply and the evaluation is still made by the Swedish Chemicals Agency.
Use of biological pesticides
Biological pesticides are mainly used in greenhouses but also in outdoor cultivation. Microorganisms are for instance used for seed dressing and to control mosquito larvae. Biological control is an important part in integrated plant protection, which is a combination of different measures against pests. Integrated plant protection is an important part of sustainable use of plant protection products within the EU.
Organisms used for biological control usually stay alive as long as the target organisms are there. When the biological pest control organisms die, they degrade rapidly in the environment. The pest organisms that are controlled can not easily build up resistance since the effect mechanisms may be complicated. A biological product is often more specific than a chemical, which reduces the risk of harm to other organisms than those to be controlled.
Authorised biological pesticides containing nematodes, insects or arachnids may not have harmful effects on ecosystems outside the area where they are used. Therefore, such organisms used for biological control must be either naturally occurring in the Swedish environment or lack the ability to establish here.
Nematodes, insects or arachnids are often allowed to be used by everyone. Many microorganisms are only allowed for professional use. These have often safety precautions to be followed in connection with handling the product, to protect health and the environment.