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Successful high-level launch of Scientific review of impact of climate change on plant pests

Posted on Tue, 01 Jun 2021, 17:00

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Rome, 1 June 2021. Due to the impact of climate change, plant pests that ravage economically important crops will continue to spread, becoming more destructive and posing an increasing threat to food security and the environment, finds a scientific review released today.

The Scientific review on the impact of climate change on plant pests - A global challenge to prevent and mitigate plant pest risks in agriculture, forestry and ecosystems by Professor Maria Lodovica, University of Turin (Italy), and ten co-authors from around the world was prepared under the auspices of the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention as one of the key initiatives of the International Year of Plant Health, which is coming to an end this month.

“The key findings of this review should alert all of us on how climate change may affect how infectious, distributed and severe pests can become around the world,” said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, at the launch of the review with representatives of agriculture and forestry ministries from Finland and Zambia.

“The review clearly shows that the impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges the plant health community is facing,” added the FAO Director General.

FAO estimates that annually up to 40 percent of global crop production is lost to pests. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy over USD 220 billion, and invasive insects at least USD 70 billion.

How is climate change impacting plant pests?

The scientific review finds that climate change will increase the risk of pests spreading in agricultural and forestry ecosystems, especially in cooler Arctic, boreal, temperate and subtropical regions.

The review analyses 15 plant pests that have spread or may spread due to climate change. Some pests, like Fall Armyworm and Tephritid fruit flies, have already spread due to warmer climate. Others, such as the Desert Locust (the world’s most destructive migratory pest), are expected to change their migratory routes and geographical distribution because of climate change.

Half of all emerging plant diseases are spread by global travel and trade, which have tripled in volume over the last decade, while weather is the second most important factor for pest spread. Climate change-induced pest dispersal and intensity threaten food security as a whole. Small holders, people whose livelihoods rely on plant health and those who live in countries beset by food insecurity are especially vulnerable to these risks.

The review puts forward a number of recommendations to mitigate the impact of climate change on plant health. Chief among them, increased international cooperation is deemed crucial as the effective management of plant pests by one farmer or one country affects the success of others. Improved measures to limit the international spread of pests through trade and travel and adjustments to plant protection protocols are equally important. The review also stresses the need for more research into the impact of climate change on pests and hence, on plant health; and for more investments in strengthening national phytosanitary systems and structures.

Plant health essential for sustainable development

“Preserving plant health is fundamental to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustaining plant health is an integral part of our work towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems,” stressed the FAO Director-General at the launch of the review.

His remarks were echoed by Jaana Husu-Kallio Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland; Songowayo Zyambo, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture of Zambia; and Francisco Javier Trujillo Arriaga, Former Chairperson of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures.

The three high-level speakers welcomed the outcomes of the scientific review – described as a guide for better climate change and plant health management – and expressed support for the IPPC Strategic Framework 2020-2030, which includes assessing and managing the impacts of climate change on plant health as one of the eight development agenda items.

In particular, Finland and Zambia have played a key role in the establishment and promotion of the International Year of Plant Health and its initiatives.

FAO believes that is crucial to respond to the interconnected challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. This includes implementing IPPC international standards for phytosanitary measures to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful plant pests, and to preserve biodiversity.

“We stand ready to strengthen collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others to ensure that phytosanitary matters are better reflected in the international climate change agenda,” said the FAO chief. In concluding the event, Jingyuan Xia, Director of the FAO Plant Production and Protection Division and IPPC Secretary-in-charge, highlighted that climate change poses risks not only to agriculture and the environment, but also to global trade, and that preventive measure, pest risk assessment and environmentally friendly methods, such as Integrated Pest Management are the most effective ways to tackle it. He also stressed the importance of international cooperation and the One Health approach, in the framework of circular health, involving a various range of disciplines, stakeholders and international actors.

Even though the International Year of Plant Health is coming to an end, FAO and partners will continue to build on its legacy and raise awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

About the International Year of Plant Health

The United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The Year was extended until 1 July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s launch is one of the events organised by the IPPC Secretariat, which is hosted by FAO, as the Year is wrapping up.

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