The United Nations (UN) is declaring 2020 the ‘International Year of Plant Health.’ Capping off the ‘Decade on Biodiversity,’ the UN continues to recognize and promote healthy ecosystems as key to sustainable development. Celebration of the International Year of Plant Health would bring increased global attention to the importance of plant health in solving global issues including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment.
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is the UN body that sets phyto (plant) sanitary standards for international trade of plants and plant products. Plant pests leave millions without food to eat and have devastating impacts on food security and trade. Invasive alien species, in particular, harm plant biodiversity and trigger billions of dollars in pest eradication in agriculture and forestry. The IPPC defines plant pests (including invasive alien species) as “any species, strain or biotype of plant, animal or pathogenic agent harmful to plants or plant products.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, an arm of the UN, estimates that up to 40 per cent of global food crops worth $220 billion in trade of agricultural products are lost annually due to plant pests. Greater harmonization and implementation of phytosanitary standards globally would reduce those losses due to pests, facilitate international trade, especially for developing countries, and support food security.
In a keynote speech supporting the UN declaration, a senior Finnish official said that “pests and diseases don’t carry passports or observe immigration requirements. The prevention of the spread of such organisms is very much an international undertaking that requires the collaboration of all countries. We must raise national, regional and global awareness of plant health and its effects on food security, poverty eradication and environmental protection.”
Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization, International Plant Protection Convention