In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

What is plant health?

Why is plant health important?

What aspect of plant health does the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) focus on?

What are plant pests?

What results are expected from the IYPH?

What can I do?

Key Messages

1. It is risky to bring plants and plant products across borders as this may spread plant pests and diseases.

Ordinary citizens should avoid bringing plants and plant products with them when they travel. They should avoid ordering plants and plant products online or through postal services since packages can easily bypass regular phytosanitary controls.

2. Make trading in plants and plant products safe without setting up unnecessary barriers.

Many countries depend on trading plants and plant products to sustain their economies. Yet trade can quickly spread plant pests and seriously damage native plants and biodiversity. Implementing the IPPC and international standards, as well as enforcing existing phytosanitary legislation, help promote trade while keeping it safe.

3. Keep plants healthy to protect the environment and biodiversity.

Plant pests are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. Climate change and human actions have altered ecosystems and created new niches where pests can thrive. When combatting pests, farmers should adopt, and policy makers should encourage the use of, environmentally friendly methods that reduce the use of toxic pesticides, which kill pollinators, natural pest enemies and organisms crucial for a healthy environment.

4. Protect, manage and restore terrestrial and marine environments to keep plants healthy.

Plants can only thrive in a healthy environment. Policy makers at all levels should therefore enact policies to protect, manage and eventually restore natural resources. Ordinary citizens and citizens' groups can take daily actions to reduce their environmental impact and actively engage in initiatives to protect and manage natural resources.

5. Invest in plant health organizations and phytosanitary research and development.

Governments, policy makers and legislators need to prioritize policies and legislation related to preventing, monitoring and reporting pest outbreaks; promoting environmentally friendly pest management measures; and facilitating safe trade. They should empower national and regional plant protection organizations, and similar institutions, and provide them with adequate human and financial resources. The public and private sector should invest more in plant health initiatives, research and innovative technologies.

6. Healthy plants are crucial for ending hunger and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat. Yet they are under constant attack from pests which destroy up to 40 percent of food crops every year and are responsible for agricultural trade losses of over USD 220 billion annually.

Plant pests leave millions of people without enough food to eat and negatively affect agriculture - the primary source of income of rural poor communities. Policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular those aimed at reducing poverty, hunger and threats to the environment.

7. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) provide guidance and lead global efforts to ensure plant health.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and their partners are leading the global effort to promote plant health in 2020 and beyond. The IPPC is a global treaty, signed by over 183 countries, that provides a framework for protecting plant resources from pests and diseases. It leads the development of international plant health standards and promotes safe trade among all countries. The FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality nutritious food to lead active, healthy lives.

Key Facts

  • Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe.

  • Plant pests are responsible for the loss of up to 40 percent of global food crops, and for trade losses in agricultural products exceeding USD 220 billion annually.

  • The annual value of trade in agricultural products has grown almost three-fold over the past decade, largely in emerging economies and developing countries, reaching USD 1.7 trillion.

  • FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise by about 60 percent by 2050 in order to feed a larger and generally richer population.

  • Climate change is having a big impact on plant health. It threatens to reduce both the quality and quantity of crops, leading to lower yields. Rising temperatures are also exacerbating water scarcity, and changing the relationship between pests, plants and pathogens.

  • More plant pests are appearing earlier and in places where they were never seen before due to climate change.

  • Beneficial insects are vital for plant health since they pollinate most plants, keep pests in control, maintain soil health, recycle nutrients, and more. However, 80% of the biomass of insects has disappeared in the last 25-30 years.