U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



BioControl (2013) 58:1–15 DOI 10.1007/s10526-012-9464-0


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Concerns about potentially irreversible non-target impacts from the importation and release of entomophagous biological control agents (BCAs) have resulted in increasingly stringent national import requirements by National Plant Protection Organizations worldwide. However, there is a divergence of opinions among regulators, researchers, environmentalists, and the general public on ways to appropriately manage associated risks. Implementation of a comprehensive and effective risk communication process might narrow the opinion gaps. Results from a comprehensive survey conducted in the United States were used to describe communication habits of stakeholders involved in biological control and identify areas that are fundamental in an efficient process. In addition, this study critically reviews risk communication practices and how phytosanitary decisions are communicated in the permitting systems for entomophagous BCAs of several countries to identify risk communication tools used in an effective risk communication framework. The following barriers to efficient risk communication were identified: absence of a formalized risk communication process, undefined risk communication goals and target audiences, lack of credibility and objectivity of information sources, inefficiency of mode of distribution of messages, insufficient public participation, and lack of transparency of decision making processes. This paper suggests the creation and/or enhancement of modes of distribution of risk messages to increase coverage, understanding, and guidance. For instance, messages should be presented in different formats such as internet, brochures, and newspapers. Surveys, public meetings, and trainings/workshops are tools that can be used to characterize stakeholders’ diversity and develop risk messages specific to the targeted audience. Implementation of a participatory decision making process will increase stakeholder involvement and trust in the risk management plan. Development of practical mechanisms, such as public hearings will increase all stakeholders’ involvement in the risk assessment process. A clear framework describing how public comments will be incorporated in the decision making process should be implemented. Finally, to ensure a streamlined risk communication process, there must be consistency in the messages disseminated by federal, state, and local agencies.