22 Stop those pests!

Plant health’s essential role in eradicating hunger and eliminating poverty.

Organizers:Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia; International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)


The introduction and spread of plant pests has a devastating impact on food availability and access; an aspect rarely considered in the context of food security. Put simply, without effective management of plant pests and their impacts on sustainable food production and trade, it will be practically difficult for CFS to achieve its mandate. Smallholder farmers, industry and governments alike are affected by pest incursions and spread on many levels. The economic and environmental costs of eradication and control are extremely high, impacting the resources available to purchase food. Entire harvests may be damaged affecting not only crop yield and quality but also countries’ ability to trade crop commodities. Most pests that threaten food security simply cannot be eradicated and some have negative long-term effects on the production of particular crops. To demonstrate plant health’s paramount role to enhancing food security, improving nutrition and reducing poverty, a wide range of panellists will explain how governments are supported to focus on pest surveillance as a key activity to control outbreaks and spread of pests. They will do this by sharing experiences on national, regional and global levels, and by demonstrating tools that may help stakeholders avoid or respond quickly to pest outbreaks.

Key speakers

Mr Kim Ritman, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia

Mr Washington Otieno, CAB International (CABI) / Plantwise 

Ms Maria Saponari, Italian National Research Council - Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection (IPSP) and International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM).

Mr Rui Pereira Cardoso, Joint FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) division

Mr Craig Fedchock, Advisor, Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention.

Mr Jingyuan Xia, Secretary, Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention chaired the side event.

Main themes/issues discussed

Plant health’s crucial role in enhancing global food security and providing for a basis for market access to help eradicate poverty. 

Summary of key points

Healthy plants means healthy crops; a prerequisite for food and feed availability for smallholder farmers. Healthy crops also mean less loss, providing smallholders with surplus produce to sell and increasing their economic standing. But healthy plants are only healthy if there is a constant and scientifically accurate surveillance to determine the pest status of a country. By knowing the pests present or absent in a country, governments are enabled to rapidly respond to new detections; this also facilitates trade as it provides for trust between trading partners, and consequently market access. Open and transparent markets translate into economic opportunities and are part of long-term strategies to eradicate poverty and improve food security.

In their presentations, the five panellists demonstrated that surveillance underpins all plant-health related activities and is essential to protecting plants from economically harmful pests. They highlighted the crucial need to prevent the entry and spread of devastating pests because many of these pests cannot be eradicated and the costs are be significant. They also explained how governments are supported through the normative work carried out under the auspices of the IPPC to develop harmonized surveillance programmes and measures. The IPPC extends its mission to the national and regional levels through international cooperation with research and capacity development organizations such as CABI and CIHAEM, and other UN agencies such as IAEA.

Key outcomes/take away messages

In addition to demonstrating the crystal clear links between healthy plants and enhancing food security and eradicating poverty, the side event also confirmed that we can hope to meet the Sustainable Development Goals only if we protect the world’s plant resources through a consolidated effort and unified voice.