FAO says plant pests and diseases cut global crop yields by 20-40%
The Food and Agriculture Organization said plant pests and diseases reduce global crop yields by 20 to 40 percent annually, with the pests and diseases spreading across borders through the movement of goods.
International experts gathered at the FAO headquarters in Rome on April 4 to focus on the most effective ways to prevent insects, bacteria, viruses and weeds from investing fruits, vegetables, and other plant food.
“Recently we have seen greater attention being paid to plant diseases and pests of plants, but more needs to be done on how to raise awareness and on how to sustain or improve plant health,” FAO Deputy Director-General for operations Daniel Gustafson said in his opening address.
The gathering is for the annual meeting of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, the body of the International Plant Protection Convention, and brings together plant health specialists, international organizations, and the private sector.
The commission reviews and establishes standards on phytosanitary measures on how plants and plant products should be handled when being transported.
It also endorses ways to support developing countries in improving the effectiveness of their national plant protection organizations as plants pests and diseases seek new habitats to breed in response to climate change.
“Once pests infest a particular geographic area and become established, they are almost impossible to eradicate and are expensive to manage,” the FAO said in a release dated April 4, 2016.
In some cases, the eradication of the pests may prove hazardous to humans and the environment, specifically when pesticides and other harmful chemicals are used.
The theme for this year’s gathering is “Plant Health for Food Security” to stress the link between the international community’s commitment to eradicate hunger by 2030 and the critical role played by plants in human nourishment.
The standards are meant to minimize the risk of plant pests and diseases spreading across borders that increases because of global trade.
Among the pests that spread easily are fruit flies, beetles and the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa that cause the so-called olive quick decline syndrome that arrived in the Mediterranean region through imported ornamental plants that scorches leaves of plants and causes it to wither.
According to the FAO, some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year and food accounts for 80 percent of the total. (By: Eileen A. Mencias)