Imagine these are puppies, not plants

Plant health is fundamental to our efforts to eradicate hunger and eliminate poverty. All animals, including us human beings, are entirely dependent on plants and yet when we see a failed harvest or a dead forest, we don’t feel the same as when we see a dead or dying animal. That needs to change.

Animal welfare issues get far more attention from the public than plant health issues. YouTube statistics would tend to support this.  The channel “Hope for Paws” has over 1.2 million subscribers, while another channel that deals with plant diseases does not even hit 1.2 thousand (The comments section reveals how emotive the issue of animal welfare is. One ‘Hope for Paws’ subscriber cries out, “i wanna donate so much so please help me so i can help these animals????”. I struggled to find any similar comments on plant health channel.

During a side event at the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS43), Craig Fedchock, an advisor at the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) showed a picture of a failed crop.  He asked: how can we create a connection so that more people are aware of how important it is to protect plant health? How can we ask them to be aware of the issue and support it? What role does crop biofortification have - does developing sustainable agriculture systems or food policies have - if we do not have food or plants to work with? 

In an impromptu group discussion with some attendees after the side event, we all agreed that we have been entrusted with giving the issue of plant health a “voice”. We can make others aware.

The IPPC’s organisation of this CFS43 side event, using the CFS platform to deliver their message, demonstrates the importance and urgent nature of promoting plant health as a way to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Craig Redchock and his team at IPPC have also initiated a campaign to make the year 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. Their efforts to enhance plant health awareness have already received support from the IPPC Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Commission on Agriculture.

Jingyuan Xia, Secretary of the IPPC, says that to achieve the SDGs our message must be heard at both international and national levels; the issue is relevant to the developed and developing world. Plants and plant-based materials are traded globally. The world is so interconnected now, and the time it takes for a pest or disease-stricken crop in Latin America to spread to Australia is faster than current management practices can cope with.

In spite of the lack of awareness regarding plant health, it is promising that the IPPC has developed a set international standards for addressing the issues associated with plant health.

During the CFS43 side event, representatives of local, national and international organisations gave examples demonstrating how their respective sectors are already using the IPPC-developed standards and implementing:

  1.  Surveillance systems to monitor plant pests/diseases efficiently;
  2. Preventative measures, which are the most economical and effective way of dealing with plant health issues;
  3. Detection methods to allow timely and accurate identification; and
  4. Response tactics in order to minimise the spread of infection.

Plant health is essential to eradicating hunger and eliminating poverty. Let us care as much about plants as we do about animals.

Blogpost by Jana L. Phan, #CFS43 Social Reporter – [email protected]

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only

19/10/2016 21:02

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