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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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The Commission for the Eradication and Prevention of Screwworms [Comisión Panama – Estados Unidos para la Erradicación y Prevención del Gusano Barrenador de Ganado (COPEG)], cooperatively managed by the USDA and the Panama Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MIDA), seeks to reduce the damage caused by New World screwworm (NWS), a deadly and dangerous pest of warm-blooded animals, including humans, livestock, and pets.  NWS was a significant pest that previously affected warm-blooded mammals in North and Central America before eradication efforts began in the 1950s.  The current biological barrier was established in the early 2000s.  NWS remains endemic to South America, negatively impacting animal agriculture and livestock.

COPEG produces millions of sterile NWS weekly at its production facility in Pacora, Panama.  This is the only sterile screwworm mass rearing facility in the world.  The sterile NWS are released by airplane over the Darien Province in eastern Panama and 20 nautical miles into neighboring Colombia.  Continual releases of sterile NWS reduces the likelihood that a native fertile male fly will mate with a native fertile female fly, thereby reducing the population.  The Program also maintains field surveillance and public information campaigns. 

The Program employs approximately 400 people and costs $15 million annually.

COPEG maintains the biological barrier to prevent northward movement into NWS-free areas; retains technical expertise; improves the efficiency and effectiveness of operations by incorporating scientific advancements; develops capacity for emergency responses to outbreaks; and communicates with countries interested in eradicating screwworm.  



World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Publishes Panama’s
Self-Declaration of Freedom from Screwworm

History of the Screwworm Program

USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Press Release on Eradication of Screwworm from the Florida Keys

A New World Screwworm Story Map, by USDA APHIS

Click the link below to see an interactive story map of the USDA’s history of eradicating the infestation and the continuing efforts to keep screwworm out of the US.

Program Priorities

  • USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Visits Japan

    May 13, 2019 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in Japan as part of a meeting of Western Hemisphere agriculture leaders meeting on the margins of the G-20 Agricultural Ministerial in Niigata, Japan. On Monday, Secretary Perdue stopped to meet with U.S. and Japan trade negotiators in Tokyo.  Secretary Perdue urged Japan to move swiftly to finalize a trade deal with Washington on farm products and other goods, and to recognize that the U.S. is a “premier customer” for Japan.  Secretary Perdue took time to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty and the U.S. Embassy Team including APHIS-International Services staff.

  • APHIS Opens New Market for U.S. Exports of Used Cooking Oil

    Apr. 30, 2019  APHIS met with officials from the Portuguese Ministry of Animal Health and representatives of the border inspection posts (BIPs) in Lisbon, Portugal. At the last such meeting held in 2014, Portugal informed APHIS they did not allow the import of used cooking oil, and APHIS presented the case for why Portugal should allow the import of used cooking oil intended for the manufacture of biodiesel as allowed by certain other EU Member States. At the April 23 meeting, Portugal verified that they had decided to open the market for used cooking oil from the United States under favorable conditions that do not require government certification. The estimated value of this market accomplishment is $25 million per year.

  • APHIS Meets with Thailand on Animal Health

    Sept. 18, 2019   APHIS met with Thailand’s Department of Livestock and Development (DLD) in Bangkok, Thailand. APHIS and DLD discussed ongoing issues including U.S. turkey meat access, avian influenza regionalization, rendered meals, and inedible beef offal. In 2018, U.S. trade in animal and animal products reached $196 million.

  • U.S. Announces Trade Deal Reached with Japan

    August 25, 2019 On the margins of the G-7 meeting, President Trump announced that the United States and Japan have agreed “in principle” to a bilateral trade deal involving agriculture and digital products. The deal would focus on lowering tariffs on a wide range of agricultural commodities such as beef, pork, ethanol, DDGs, and soymeal. This agreement will aid exporters who seek to compete with exports from other countries who have partnered with Japan through finalized free trade agreements (FTA). 

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