Protecting Plants, People and the World: Celebrating the International Year of Plant Health
The United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shines a light on the international community protecting the world’s crops, forests, and agriculture against invasive pests and threats.
Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat, yet we often don’t think about keeping them healthy, which can have devastating results. Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases annually. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies since plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and management is both time consuming and expensive.
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) was formed in 1951. Now signed by over 180 countries, this intergovernmental treaty aims to protect the world's plant resources from the spread and introduction of pests while promoting safe trade. Through the IPPC, the International Year of Plant Health will be celebrated worldwide.
The goal of the IYPH is to create and implement policies for reducing poverty, hunger and threats to the environment. As a member of the IPPC, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) and International Services will champion and promote the IYPH.
The United States will celebrate by hosting “Safeguarding 2020”, including a conference from August 18 to 20, 2020, in Washington, DC. APHIS, in collaboration with the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO), will bring together leaders from U.S. government agencies at the Federal, State, and county levels; industry associations; private companies; academia; domestic and international non-governmental organizations; and foreign governments.
- Tackle the biggest plant health safeguarding and safe trade challenges facing the United States, the North American region, and the world at large.
- Learn about new and emerging methods, tools, and technologies that could be used to safeguard plant health and facilitate safe trade.
- Engage in interactive sessions to help build stronger relationships among government, industry, and academia.
- Identify strategic activities and investments that public and private entities could undertake to ensure sustainable and profitable agriculture, healthy forests and ecosystems, and a safe and prosperous global trade system.
The outcomes of Safeguarding 2020 will carry into the global IYPH conference in Helsinki, Finland in October 2020. These outcomes will also drive U.S. actions, policies, strategies, and partnerships for the next decade.
The list of economically devastating pests grows longer each day. Some are new invaders, like the fall armyworm (FAW), while others are old familiar pests like the desert locust. The invasion and rapid spread of the fall armyworm in Africa is a recent example of the destructive capabilities of emerging new pests. First detected in Nigeria in 2016, FAW has now spread to nearly all African countries. In recent months, the Horn of Africa has been invaded by desert locust swarms which have consumed crops and pasture. The locust is a recurring pest that returns when the conditions are just right; Ethiopia is experiencing its worst outbreak in 25 years, while Kenya is suffering its worst in 75 years.
The plant protection profession is a diverse field that can take you in directions many would never dream of. Consisting of plant pathologists, botanists, entomologists and agronomists, the career of plant protection is one that has a traditional foundation as old as civilization while exploring the leading edge of technology and along the way making policy that enables farmers to feed the world. Through the actions of plant quarantine officials around the world and ultimately farmer-led solutions, evolving policy is shaping a healthier environment so people are fed and clothed. Basing policy on science, international standards and practical solutions creates a platform that protects and promotes the health of the world’s plant resources. As a member of the APHIS Foreign Service - International Services, I’m excited to share with you this landmark event.
Investing in plant health organizations and phytosanitary research and development is essential in extending the umbrella of biosecurity over our plant communities. Governments, policymakers, and legislators need to prioritize policies and legislation related to preventing, monitoring and reporting pest outbreaks; promoting environmentally friendly pest management measures; and facilitating safe trade. They should empower national and regional plant protection organizations and provide them with adequate human and financial resources. The public and private sector should invest more in plant health initiatives, research and innovative technologies.