IPPC 65th anniversary

2017 marks the IPPC s 65th anniversary. What is the history of the IPPC? The sections below will give you an answer.

First stage: IPPC precursors

The fight to save plants from pests is a historic one. Plants account for over 80% of the human diet. As such, they are essential for food security, or the ongoing access to sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious food to live an active and healthy life.

Already the book of Exodus in the Bible referred to a locusts plagues in Egypt, while Theophrastus (371-286 B.C.), considered the father of botany, studied and explained consequences of plant pests.

Over the past centuries, the Potato late blight disease caused by Phytophthora infestans, a pest that is considered native to Central America, caused the great Irish famine of 1845, which killed more than one million people and prompted two million to leave their homeland. In India in 1942-43 a severe outbreak of Brown spot fungus (Bipolaris oryzae, syn. Helminthosporium oryzae) destroyed 50 to 90% of the rice crops in the Bengal area. Two million people died in the famine.

The first international agreement describing measures to be taken against plant pests was the Convention on Phylloxera vastatrix of 3 November 1881, followed by the additional Convention signed at Berne on 15 April 1889, and by the International Convention for the Protection of Plants developed by the International Institute for Agriculture and signed in Rome on 16 April 1929.

Second stage: IPPC adoption

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) was adopted by the sixth Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1951 and came into force on 3 April 1952. The IPPC terminated and replaced the earlier international agreements in the field of plant protection.

The IPPC contains many of the concepts developed in the earlier convention for the protection of plants, including the use of a phytosanitary certificate in international trade. The purpose of the 1951 Convention was to “secure common and effective action to prevent the introduction and spread of pest and diseases of plant and plant products and to promote measures for their control”.

The main articles included: supplementary agreements; necessity for a contracting party establish a national plant protection organization (NPPO); a model phytosanitary certificate; the establishment by FAO of a world reporting service for plant pests and diseases of economic importance; the establishment of regional plant protection organizations (RPPOs); the settlement of disputes; and the administration of the Convention by FAO. Contracting parties agreed to keep certification requirements to a minimum.

Third stage: the first amendments to the IPPC

The Conference of FAO in 1969 decided to revise the IPPC to clarify specific provisions and to take account of change in trade and agriculture since 1952. Improvements included: the introduction of the concept of “quarantine pest”; clarification on the certification procedure; certification of re-export; narrowing of the scope of the Convention to “apply to quarantine pests in international trade”. The revised Convention came in to force on 4 April 1991. The IPPC Secretariat, hosted by FAO at its Rome headquarters as an Article XIV body foreseen by the FAO Charter, was established in 1992 and began its standard setting programme the same year, resulting in the adoption of the first International Standards on Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM 1 on Principles of plant quarantine as related to international trade, later revised as Phytosanitary principles for the protection of plants and the application of phytosanitary measures in international trade) by the 27th Session of the FAO Conference in 1993.

The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (1986-1994) and subsequent establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 was an important milestone for the concept of the trans-boundary movement of plant and plant products. The Uruguay Round resulted in the recognition of measures to protect human, animal and plant life and health. Although many of the principles on which this recognition was based were similar to those already contained in the IPPC, there were new provisions to ensure safe trade, increase transparency and the removal of unjustified trade barriers. The WTO “Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures” (the “SPS Agreement”) established the trade rules for the global harmonization of phytosanitary measures / plant quarantine and specifically named the IPPC as the technical standard setting organization for plant health.

While these negotiations were being finalised, FAO initiated a programme to once again review to the IPPC to ensure modernization and to ensure consistency with the SPS agreement.

Fourth stage: the 1997 revision of the IPPC

The New Revised Text of the IPPC was adopted by the 27th Conference of FAO in 1997 and came into force on 5 October 2005. Although there were no new obligations for contracting parties, major amendments included: confirmation of the establishment of the IPPC Secretariat within FAO; the establishment of a governing body (the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures - CPM); placing a strong emphasis on the global harmonization of phytosanitary principles and measures through the development of international phytosanitary standards; describing in detail the responsibilities of NPPOs; inclusion of insects, pathogens and weeds in the definition of pests; provision that the Convention not only deals with crops but also covers natural vegetation; and provision of authority to establish phytosanitary measures for biological control agents and other organisms of phytosanitary concern claimed to be beneficial.

The FAO Conference also established interim measures from 1997, which allowed for the establishment of the Interim CPM until entry into force of the new revision. These measures were effective until the First Session of the CPM in April 2006, when the CPM accepted all previous decision made by the ICPM. The IPPC Secretariat serves the CPM and is responsible for the implementation of its work programme that is established annually.

The CPM established two subsidiary bodies responsible for important aspects of the work programme: the Standards Committee (SC) is responsible since 2001 for the development of international phytosanitary standards (as of August 2017, there are 94 adopted standards including 41 ISPMs, 22 Diagnostic Protocols and 31 Phytosanitary Treatments); the Implementation and Capacity Development Committee (IC) was established by CPM-12 (2017) and incorporated the functions of the Capacity Development Committee (CDC) and the Subsidiary Body on Dispute Settlement (SBDS). The National Reporting Obligations Advisory Body (NROAG) was established by CPM-8 (2013) to review the National Reporting Obligations programme.

The CPM Bureau and the CPM Financial Committee (FC) have been created respectively in 2006 and 2012 in order to provide guidance on strategic direction, cooperation, financial and operational management, and to ensure financial transparency and contribute to resource mobilization.

In addition, the Strategic Planning Group (SPG), established in 2012 to replace the CPM Informal Working Group on Strategic Planning and Technical Assistance (SPTA) operating since 1999, is an informal working group, which undertakes specific activities on behalf of the CPM, relating to the planning and prioritization of the various elements of the work programme including with the main focus on strategic issues.

Today, the IPPC Secretariat is made up of a Standard Setting Unit (SSU), an Implementation Facilitation Unit (IFU), and an Integration and Support Team (IST); it is composed of 20-25 staff, 50% supported from the FAO regular programme, and 50% financed by IPPC extra-budgetary resources.