Publicado on Jue, 28 Feb 2013, 15:12
Photo: © FAO/Sean Gallagher Increased international trade, along with the increased movement of people across international borders, provides an opportunity for harmful pests and other invasive species to travel along and successfully establish themselves in new habitats. The result is an increasingly serious threat to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and the ecosystem. A few hundred years ago, plant pests and diseases generally moved from place to place naturally. As technology improved, and the transport of merchandise became easier, plant pests also found easy ways to move around the world. By the 20th century pests and diseases could be in a new location in a matter of hours. It meant that illnesses such as malaria could travel from Africa to Switzerland because of the capacity of the mosquito to survive the journey in a plane. In this particular case the consequences were fatal when a mosquito infected someone in Switzerland who had never traveled to Africa. As noted above, a significant and not altogether welcome result of the ease of transport from place to place is that the risk of new plant pests has been multiplied. Natural and national barriers are not effective as they used to be. The increased pace of transportation globally, while providing benefits in access for consumers to more products, also provides an easy means for pests to relocate into new places. In addition, the advent of the internet has provided additional means for pests to proliferate. The online market represents a threat which goes beyond that of transportation. While the free flow of information and knowledge resources are a positive aspect of the internet, it also provides an uncontrolled means for the trade of seeds, tissue culture, plant products, flowers, etc., often through express mail services with the result being easy access for pests from one area to another. While increased globalization has provided new opportunities for plant pests to travel, a more recent economic trend is providing an opportunity for pests to become established. As we are all well aware, in several countries consumer demand, cash flow, investor confidence, credit and consumption have decreased with a chilling effect on international trade. This global financial crisis, has led many countries to focus their attention on their domestic employment and fiscal situation, with a decreased focus on protection of their biodiversity against whatever trade is still taking place. As a result, issues like the increased risks associated with internet based trade in plants and plant products are being neglected raising the threat of new and severe pest incursions globally. ## Where does the IPPC fit in all of this? The increased reliance on international and regional trade for stimulating economic growth, including trade in food and agricultural products, puts increasing pressure on the IPPC and national plant protection organizations (NPPOs) to effectively manage the international pest risks. The increased use of the internet as a mechanism of global trade is also an additional pressure on plant health organizations. It also explains why the IPPC is constantly looking for new strategies and scientific measures to improve plant protection globally. In addition, when those new measures become available, the IPPC is developing partnerships with donor organizations to assist developing countries with their implementation. The IPPC works to ensure that international commerce in plants and plant products takes place with a minimum of risk. The Convention sets international standards designed to prevent plant pests and diseases from being spread through international trade: International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). The IPPC also works within an international framework to ensure that individual ensuring countries do not use plant protection regulations to protect their domestic market from foreign competition. The IPPC works with governments and industries (producers, importers and exporters) from different territories and markets, as with other actors that can be affected by plant pests. The IPPC works to help them to ensure market access through compliance with the ISPMs while at the same time working to reduce the risk of trans-boundary movement of pests. The convention covers agricultural crops, forestry, biological control agents, and any plants in the environment. The IPPC is also recognized by the World Trade Organization as the international standard setting body for plant health under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement). While ISPMs are not binding under the IPPC, nevertheless under the SPS Agreement, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) must base their individual standards on the ISPMs or be able to provide scientific justification when their standards are more stringent. ISPMs have become a mechanism for harmonizing plant protection legislation, regulations and procedures throughout the world. These standards facilitate international trade by attempting to manage risks in the trade of plants and plant products for an importing country. In the end, international trade becomes more secure and the costs for preventing and eradicating plant pests are reduced.