The International Year of Plant Health 2020
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Plant health impacts on everyone’s lives socially, economically, culturally and environmentally. The General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) proclaimed 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), which is a key international recognition of the importance of plants, one of the most basic and fundamental pillars for life on Earth as we know it. Failure to ensure plant health as a crucial component of agriculture, amongst other things, will prevent achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development: feeding the growing global population would be simply impossible without preserving plant health. The international community acknowledged its importance by voting the UNGA Resolution proclaiming the IYPH unanimously, underlining the importance of the work of FAO and the IPPC in the drafting, implementation and application of safe international standards preventing the spread of plant pests and diseases while protecting crops and making trade safe and fair.
Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Yet, they are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases. Every year, up to 40 percent of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases. This leads to annual agricultural trade losses of over $220 billion, leaves millions of people facing hunger, and severely damages agriculture – the primary income source for poor rural communities.
FAO considers the proclamation of the IYPH 2020 as a paramount and unique initiative to increase global awareness of the important role of plant health for life of earth, and to promote activities in favour of preserving and sustaining global plant resources. Plant health is essential to support poor rural communities, often relying on agriculture-related revenues primarily, making it the first source of income: protecting plants from pests and keeping plants healthy begins with prevention avoids the adoption of more burdening interventions of eradications, control and containment, once a pest is introduced. Healthy plants are also supporting biodiversity, which is currently under threat due to many factors, such as climate change that has allowed to some alien species to thrive in new niches.
Promoting and protecting plant health are at the core of FAO’s mandate, helping to make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable, and can help ending hunger, reducing poverty, protecting the environment and boosting economic development to leave no one behind.
Much still needs to be done to ensure plant health. Strategic partnerships and collaborative action with all stakeholders, including governments, academia and research institutions, civil society and private sector, are essential to achieve the objectives of the International Year of Plant Health.
The IYPH launch marks a first step in the right direction to raise awareness amongst various stakeholders about the importance of plant health, with a focus on prevention of the spread of plant pests and diseases. FAO staff, partner organizations, and representatives of governments, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector gathered in Rome at FAO headquarters after Monday’s session of the FAO Council on 2nd December 2019 to join Mr Qu Dongyu, FAO Director-General, in launching this paramount global occurrence.
“Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth – stated Mr Qu – and they are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted”. Climate change and human activities are altering ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.
“As with human or animal health, prevention in plant health is better than cure,” stressed the FAO chief. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies. Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive.
Two thematic exhibits from Ireland and Italy were hosted at FAO headquarters for the official launch event of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Entirely dedicated to plant health, the exhibitions aimed to raising public awareness of the phytosanitary risks associated with international travel and trade.
The exhibition was officially inaugurated with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the FAO Director-General, Mr Qu Dongyu and all the keynote speakers of the IYPH launch event’s opening session, including Mr Edward Centeno Gadea, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Nicaragua; Mr Andrew Doyle, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Ms Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland; and Ms Tamara Finkelstein, Permanent Secretary of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Irish exhibit was organized by Irish national plant protection organization (NPPO) in cooperation with the Irish delegation to FAO and inaugurated at the presence of Mr Andrew Doyle, Minister of Ireland at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Mr Bobby McDonagh, Ambassador of Ireland to Italy; and Mr Barry Delany, IPPC contact point for Ireland. As part of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) “Don’t Risk it!” information campaign, the Irish exhibit aimed to raising public awareness of the phytosanitary risks associated with international travel. “When travelling abroad, plant pests and diseases do not take passports,” said the Minister of Ireland during his remarks at the IYPH launch event, encouraging people and travellers to take responsible and more cautious approach when bringing plants and plant products aboard.
On the other hand, the Italian exhibit was organized by Conlegno, a private non-profit consortium that aims at protecting forest heritage and biodiversity, in collaboration with the Italian NPPO. The IPPC contact point for Italy, Mr Bruno Faraglia, explained to the FAO Director-General how Conlegno companies work in accordance with the IPPC guidelines for regulating wood packaging material in international trade. The exhibit showed how the Italian government is working on the implementation of IPPC standards, and how International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) 15 is harmonized in Italy to mitigate the phytosanitary risks related to wood packaging material. In conclusion, the IPPC Secretary Jingyuan Xia conveyed his high appreciation to the governments of Ireland and Italy for contributing to the IYPH launch event and expressed the idea to continue such collaboration in view of the 15th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures.
FAO and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) will lead activities to make the Year a success as well as promote plant health beyond 2020. The Year will emphasize prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health.
The key objectives of the Year are: raising awareness of the importance of healthy plants for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; highlighting the impact of plant health on food security and ecosystem functions; and sharing best practices on how to keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.
By preventing the spread and introduction of pests into new areas, governments, farmers and other actors of the food chain, such as the private sector, can save billions of dollars and ensure access to quality food. Keeping plants or plant products free from pests and diseases also helps facilitate trade and ensures market access especially for developing countries. For this, it is important to strengthen the adherence to harmonized international phytosanitary regulations and standards.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations