Insects and soil fauna

Negative landscape level impacts are the biggest contributors to insect biodiversity loss and other parts of this site contain strategies to address that significant problem.  Here, the more specific issue of human manipulation of insect genetics is considered.  Bees are discussed under Goal 5 Pollinators, and silkworm and scale insects used for dyes and cosmetics under Goal 5 Sustainable farmed bioproducts.

Canada's regulatory system for insects and soil fauna

Canada does not directly regulate insect and soil fauna genetic resources. Pesticide regulation is carried out federally under the Pest Control Products Act, with numerous related programming for biocontrol agents carried out by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the Pest Management Centre of AAFC.  The provinces also have legislation regarding pesticide use and application (see Goal 4, Pesticides).  Insects used as parastic and other pest control agents are also regulated by the PMRA, and both the provinces and PMRA can have regulations regarding sterile insect techniques (e.g. BC's regulations in the Okanagan on release of sterile codling moth). The federal Fertilizers Act also has some direct and indirect impacts on soil fauna which are only minimally acknowledged in the approval processes for fertilizers and soil amendments given how little we know about soil organisms.  Many provinces also have nutrient management regulations that impact soil biota (see Goal 4 Fertilizers).  Invasive insect pests are managed by the CFIA primarily under phytosanitary rules, but some provinces also have a role to play through invasive species legislation.  The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is pertinent as many arthropods  are on the at risk list, including numerous species of moths and butterflies, beetles and bees.  Many actors including the provinces / territories are involved in implementing recovery strategies, if they exist (see Goal 5).  Health Canada is responsible for regulating insects as food under the Food and Drugs Act and for food, AAFC and HC are responsible under the Feeds Act.  Insect and insect genes used in novel foods and feed (genetic engineering) are discussed under Goal 4, as is imminent use of genetic engineering to create sterility in insects.

Current approaches to protecting genetic resources: Strengths and Weaknesses

Although all these regulatory areas have impacts on insect and soil fauna genetic diversity, Canada has no coherent, integrated strategy for protecting such resources.  A number of interventions are essentially efforts to "domesticate" insects (see Lecocq, 2019) and for these, a strategy is particularly required because genetic and fitness changes have been noted relative to wild relatives. Some insects have recovery strategies and / or action plans under the SARA, which is important, but very limited given the probable scale of the problem.  Because it is typically only economically significant insects that receive attention, our understanding of impacts across many (and ecologically beneficial) species is limited.

There does not appear to be an international approach on this issue.


The main strategy is filling the innumerable data gaps that exist for most insect species that humans manipulate.  It is such a poorly understood area at this stage (see Lecocq, 2019) that subsequent actions can not  be identified until we better understand how domestication processes are impacting insect populations.  Because AAFC promotes the use of insects for pest control and also genetic engineering, they are unlikely to fund such research.  It falls to the universities and general funding bodies such as NSERC to investigate. The Entomological Society of Canada could facilitate work in this area by profiling the needs in their publications.


Once more research has been conducted, we would be in a better position to amend the regulatory environment to protect insect genetic diversity.


At this point, we don't know enough to propose redesign strategies.