FAO says plant health, crucial for global food security

On the very first International Day of Plant Health (IDPH), marked yesterday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more investment in innovation to boost food security, especially for the billions worldwide living close to the bread line.

FAO argued that healthy plants have the power to help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Noting that although plants make up 80% of the food we eat, and provide 98% of the oxygen we breathe, the agency said there however threats to their survival in many cases, which are piling up.

According to recent data, up to 40% of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases every year, and this affects both food security and agriculture, the main source of income for vulnerable rural communities.

Climate change and human activities are also altering ecosystems and damaging biodiversity while creating new niches for pests to thrive in.

Furthermore, FAO says that protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with plant health emergencies. That is because once established, plant pests and diseases are often difficult to eradicate, and need to be controlled through sustainable pest and pesticides management.

Healthy plants have the power to help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Human health depends on plants

“On this very first International Day of Plant Health, we reflect on plant health innovations for food security,” said FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, adding that investments are needed in research to find more resilient and sustainable additions to the human diet.

“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” he continued.

The protection of plants is essential for people and for the planet, for which FAO mapped several priorities for plant health, coinciding with the inaugural Day.

Focusing on sustainable pest management and pesticides through the promotion of green and digital plant protection; and creating enabling surroundings for plant health by enhancing the health of soils, seeds, and pollinators, are among the main priorities.

FAO therefore called on governments across the world “to prioritize plant health and its sustainable management in formulating policies and legislation, and on academia and research institutions to deliver science-based solutions.”

Why an International Day?

Having been established as a key legacy of the International Year of Plant Health 2020, the International Day of Plant Health was designated to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.

Championed by Zambia, it was unanimously adopted in a General-Assembly resolution co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania.

Following the first IDPH this year, FAO will henceforth organize celebrations for the Day every May 12 at global, regional, and national levels.

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