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Food Chain Crisis

FCC-EMPRES Information Sheet

This section introduces FCC–EMPRES core activities through successful programs and initiatives that illustrate FAO’s role in supporting member countries to prevent, prepare and respond to transboundary, high impact animal and plant pests and diseases and food safety threats.
A series of information sheets showcases what FAO has introduced and developed, what it has improved and, most of all, what it has achieved in prevention, preparedness, and response to emergencies affecting the food chain.

Livestock markets are a “hotspot” of disease risk along the value chain as many animals of different origin are combined into a single location. Moreover, as markets occur during periods of high stress for animals (e.g. transport), the need to identify and monitor the risk of disease transmission becomes particularly urgent.
Traditionally, studies documenting the risk of disease spread through livestock markets have mostly been limited to static data gathering efforts and obsolete processing technologies. As a result, the findings rarely have practical significance at the field level, where disease control and prevention actions are applied. In addition, veterinary services are facing increasing pressure from emerging zoonotic and transboundary diseases. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to prioritize response activities in times of reduced resource allocation.

The Market Profiling Application (MPA) developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is an online, dynamic, real-time application to systematically collect, display and analyse epidemiologically relevant market data.

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a vector-borne disease that severely impacts livelihoods, national and international markets, and human health. RVF is currently limited to Africa and parts of the Near East but has the recognized potential to expand globally. The disease in livestock is spread primarily by mosquitoes and the movement of animals. Clinical disease has been observed in sheep, goats, cattle, buffaloes, camels and humans. RVF is zoonotic. It can result in widespread febrile illness in humans, associated with severe and sometimes fatal sequelae in under one percent of cases.

Outbreaks of RVF are closely associated with climate anomalies such as periods of heavy rains and prolonged flooding, which increase habitat suitability for vector populations, thus influencing the risk of disease emergence, transmission and spread. In this context, Early Warning Systems represent an essential tool providing information on occurring animal health hazards that might evolve into disasters unless early response is undertaken. To enable national authorities to implement measures preventing outbreaks, FAO developed the RVF Monitoring/Early Warning System. This tool has been crucial to successfully forecast hotspots for RVF vector amplification, providing recommendations and early warning messages for countries at risk of RVF outbreaks.

Tilapia lake virus (TiLV) is a recently described disease affecting wild and farmed tilapines. Tilapias are farmed globally and are the second most important aquaculture species in terms of volumes produced, providing a key source of affordable animal protein, income to fish farmers and fishers, and domestic and export earnings. Infection with TiLV has caused extremely variable mortalities (ranging from 0 to 90 percent ) and may pose a great threat to the tilapia sector.

The virus was first recognized in Israel in 2011 and was assumed to be linked to previously unexplained outbreaks in Israel in 2009. At present, it has been reported in three continents (Asia, Africa and South America) and the number of countries where the agent has been detected is likely to increase rapidly as a result of increased awareness, surveillance and availability of diagnostic methods. While there is no public health concern for this pathogen, there is a significant risk of TiLV being translocated both inter- and intra-continentally through the movement of infected live tilapias in the absence of appropriate biosecurity measures.

FAO monitors TiLV, provides technical assistance and works with FAO member governments and their constituents as well as development partners and searches for resources to support the tilapia sector and the communities dependent on it.

The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) is an ambrosia beetle (Coleoptera: Curculeonidae: Scolytinae) native to Asia, together with its fungal symbiont Fusarium euwallaceae. PHSB attacks agricultural and forestry crops, street and garden trees, as well as several native tree species.

It has emerged as an important invasive pest killing avocado and other trees in Israel, California and the United States. The PSHB is one of three species in the Euwallacea fornicatus species complex, the taxonomy of which remains to be resolved. The PSHB and its fungus were discovered in South Africa in 2017. The beetle has since then spread to a number of provinces in the country where it has infested and killed large numbers of trees. This small ambrosia beetle has an extraordinary wide host range. It has already been reported on many popular tree species grown in urban areas of South Africa, and is also a pest of pecan nut trees, avocado and other fruit trees.

To help member countries address and manage the increased threats to forest health from invasive species such as PSHB, FAO facilitates the Forest Invasive Species Networks for Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Central Asia and the Near East. These networks improves the exchange of information, knowledge and expertise on invasive species issues and enhance collaboration in the regions.

Given the growing number of nuclear power plants and nuclear power stations being built, the aging of existing ones, and the nuclear incidents that have occurred in the past, the improvement of nuclear emergency preparedness and response in food and agriculture has never been more necessary and urgent.

A nuclear incident often leads to disarray, and may have long-term consequences for people, trade and the economy.

Lessons learned from previous power plant accidents have identified critical areas for improvement – including data sampling and analysis, data management, and data visualization for swift decision-making – which would allow food control and health authorities to respond and disseminate information to all relevant stakeholders on a timely basis. In addition, these improvements form the basis of an effective emergency response system that can protect the food chain and water supply systems and prevent the consumption of contaminated foods.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture has developed the Decision Support System for Nuclear Emergencies Affecting Food and Agriculture (DSS4NAFA), a cloud-based Information Technology (IT) decision support system with improved capacity to manage large volumes of spatial and temporal data, real-time information processing and visualization, and provide enhanced aid to response actions and decision-making.

Tsetse-transmitted Trypanosomoses are a family of infectious diseases unique to Africa that are caused by various species of blood parasites. They affect both people (Human African Trypanosomosis – HAT, or sleeping sickness) and animals (African Animal Trypanosomosis – AAT, or nagana), and they occur in 37 sub-Saharan countries over an area of more than 10 million km² – which corresponds approximately to one-third of Africa’s total land area. The infection threatens over 50 million people and at least 50 million cattle.

The disease is often neglected by both endemic countries and donors as it mostly affects poor and vulnerable smallholders in rural areas.

In the framework of the Programme Against African Trypanosomosis (PAAT), FAO deals with the constraints that Trypanosomoses pose on agricultural production, rural development and food security.

The Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), FAW, is an insect native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. In the absence of natural control or good management, it can cause significant damage to crops. It prefers maize, but can feed on more than 80 additional species of crops, including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton.

FAO is taking an active role in coordinating partners’ activities, plans and approaches to provide sustainable solutions to the FAW challenge. An integral part of FAO’s sustainable management programme for FAW in Africa is the FAW Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) that consists of a mobile app for data collection and a global platform for mapping the current situation.

The occurrence of the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS) caused by Xylella fastidiosa in the Apulia region in Italy, poses a serious threat for olive production in the Mediterranean countries. 

The host complexity of X. fastidiosa and the diverse ways of its dissemination make the disease more likely to be introduced into the Near East and North Africa (NENA) countries through the movement and trade of potentially infected host plants. These facts imposed the necessity of strengthening the phytosanitary measures applied in the region and putting in place a harmonized surveillance programme.

To face this challenge, FAO launched a Regional Technical Cooperation Project to help NENA countries in their efforts to enforce preventive measures for the introduction and spread of X. fastidiosa - Olive Quick Decline Syndrome - in their territories.

In recent years, outbreaks of animal diseases such as Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), African swine fever (ASF) and Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) have had a devastating impact on communities’ livelihoods and food security. In addition, many animal diseases can spread to humans (known as zoonoses), sometimes with lethal outcomes, as seen with rabies, avian influenza and Rift Valley fever. 
To reduce the risk posed by these pathogens, it is necessary to establish a strong animal disease surveillance system that is capable of timely exchange of information with other sectors, such as public health and the environment. However, in many countries, the animal health systems are underdeveloped and underfunded, a factor that places these nations at a disadvantage when they are required to prepare for animal diseases, including zoonoses.
Strengthening the capacities of national veterinary services is therefore crucial to fill this gap and ensure that:
1. The impact of economically important livestock diseases such as FMD, ASF, PPR and avian influenza is reduced;
2. Countries are able to maintain disease-free status through efficient surveillance activities;
3. Zoonoses are detected in animals prior to their spillover to humans.

Locusts and grasshoppers are a serious threat to agriculture, including pastures and rangelands, in Caucasus and Central Asia, where more than 25 million hectares are concerned. During outbreaks, the three main locust pests, the Asian Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria migratoria), the Italian Locust (Calliptamus italicus) and the Moroccan Locust (Dociostaurus maroccanus), attack all kinds of crops and natural vegetation and jeopardise food security and livelihoods of at least 20 million people. The most affected populations are the most vulnerable rural communities, whose health and environment can moreover suffer from adverse impacts of locust control operations.

To reduce the occurrence and intensity of locust outbreaks, FAO has been implementing a regional “Programme to improve national and regional locust management in Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA)” since 2011.

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