The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched the United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) for 2020, which aims to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Every year, up to 40% of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases, which leads to annual agricultural trade losses of over $220 billion. It also results in millions of people facing hunger and severely damages agriculture—the primary income source for poor rural communities. For this reason, the U.N. believes policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth, and they are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, in a press release.

FAO and its International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) will lead activities this year and promote plant health beyond 2020. The emphasis will be on prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health. The key objectives are the following: 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.

The FAO encourages farmers and policymakers to use and promote environmentally friendly methods such as integrated pest management to help keep plants healthy while protecting the environment. Also, the organization urges governments, legislators, and policymakers to empower plant protection organizations and other relevant institutions and provide them with adequate human and financial resources. They should also invest more in plant health–related research and outreach, as well as innovative practices and technologies. Finally, Dongyu stressed the importance of forming strategic partnerships with all stakeholders, including governments, academia and research institutions, civil society, and the private sector.

The U.S. National Plant Protection Organization—the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Plant Protection and Quarantine—has announced it is heading up the U.N.’s call to action in the United States. “At USDA, we do all we can for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers so that they can continue to feed and clothe this nation and the world,” said Greg Ibach, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, in a press release. “That’s why we’re urging everyone to take this issue seriously and to do their part. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost-effective than the alternative.”

FAO press release

USDA press release

In This Article

  1. Sustainability
  2. Food Security

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