A comprehensive account is given of the evolution of registration guidelines and safety testing procedures for microbial insecticidal agents. Particular emphasis is given to the use of viruses for pest control and the various guidelines developed to assess their possible hazards. The likely gains and risks associated with using viruses are discussed. Several meetings have been held in the last 10 years to assess the hazards of virus insecticides. Some of these meetings have produced recommendations, some have developed guidelines for safety testing. These meetings are reviewed. The various guidelines developed for safety testing are critically evaluated and the UK Registration Criteria for Biological Agents used as Pesticides are reproduced in full. Examples of viruses that have been safety tested and registered for use are given and the criteria used are described. Conclusions are drawn on the merits of the guidelines presently available and the likely future development of safety testing schemes is considered.