Antimicrobial Resistance

Plant production

What is the problem

Over the last decades, agricultural intensification has led to a significant increase in the use of agrochemicals. Pesticides play an important role in reducing losses in crop production. However, their misuse can have serious negative impacts on human health  and the environment. The misuse and overuse of pesticides including anti-microbial pesticides/ antibiotics lead to occupational exposure, risks for consumers and environmental pollution. The problems are more severe in developing countries.

Although estimates show that the amount of antibiotics used for crops is relatively low in comparison to the quantities used in livestock, the potential risk of AMR should not be ignored. For example, the residues of fungicides and antibiotics in crops may encourage emergence of resistant strains of fungus and bacteria and possibly increase the risk of human resistance to the drugs.      

Challenges and Solutions

The challenge is how to promote proper use of pesticides in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, minimizing the negative effects of pesticides on farmers, consumers and the environment. We need to shift towards sustainable pest management practices that reduce reliance on pesticides while providing effective protection against crop losses from pests. In parallel, farmer education and regulatory management of pesticides need to be strengthened to address overuse and misuse of pesticides. The new FAO strategic framework explicitly supports sustainable agricultural production as one of its five strategic objectives. As part of this wider objective, FAO strongly works towards Pesticide Risk Reduction. Through integrated pest management, and preventing disease in all sectors, the need for all types of pesticides could be greatly reduced. International AMR focus has shifted from antimicrobial management and use towards implementing good agricultural and production practices, biosecurity, and infection control, thereby reducing the need for antimicrobials and the selective pressure for developing AMR.

In particular FAO,

  • Promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize the use of pesticides including regulating strictly the use of anti-microbial pesticide. IPM is an ecological approach to growing healthy crops.  FAO works with countries to build the capacity of small-holder farmers to grow healthy crops through Farmer Field School programmes which includes an understanding of ecological pest management.

  • Supports prevention and distribution of plant pest and diseases through implementation of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) of the IPPC. The ISPMs are adopted by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures play a significant role by helping countries to prevent the introduction of pests, improve and maintain their plant health, and thereby reduce the need for antimicrobials use and the risk of AMR development. In the short term, prevention is a primary focus for the plant production and protection sector in reducing plant associated development and proliferation of AMR. Preventative actions include many elements essential to the effective prevention, control and management of plant pests. Hence, IPPC Contracting Parties are maintaining a watching brief on the contribution of plant health actions on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), and support activities to restrict the use of antibiotics in crop production and plant protection, and particularly those that are used in animal and human disease control.
  • Develops and assists countries in  implementation of the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.The Code provides guidance to government regulators, private sector, civil society and other stakeholders on best practices in managing pesticides through out their life-cycle. A series of policy and technical guidelines have been developed to facilitate its implementation.  FAO works alongside governments on raising awareness and on building capacities to regulate, monitor, and sustainably manage pesticides. Specific guidelines are under the development for strengthening regulation and registration of anti-microbial pesticides to minimise risk of antimicrobial resistance. 
  • To assists pesticide registrars with the evaluation of pesticides, FAO developed the FAO Pesticide Registration Toolkit, a web-based decision support system for pesticide registrars in developing countries. 
  • In collaboration with the WHO, FAO sets food safety standards -Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in food and pesticide quality standards (specifications) to protect consumers’ health and environment.

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