FAO launches 2020 as the UN’s International Year of Plant Health

FAO launches 2020 as the UN’s International Year of Plant Health

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched the United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) for 2020, which aims to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Yet, they are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases.

Every year, up to 40 percent of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases. This leads to annual agricultural trade losses of over $220 billion, leaves millions of people facing hunger, and severely damages agriculture – the primary income source for poor rural communities.

This is why policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and they are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu who launched the Year on the sidelines of the UN agency’s Council meeting.

Climate change and human activities are altering ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.

“As with human or animal health, prevention in plant health is better than cure,” stressed the FAO chief.

Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies. Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive.

Qu Dongyu also urged for prompt action, pointing out that much still needs to be done to ensure plant health.

“On this International Year and throughout this Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, let us dedicate the necessary resources and increase our commitment to plant health. Let us act for people and planet,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General in a message read out at the event.

The following ministers also spoke at the event: Edward Centeno Gadea, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Nicaragua; Andrew Doyle, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland; and Tamara Finkelstein, Permanent Secretary of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK.

In his opening remarks, the FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu commended the Government of Finland for taking the lead in proposing a year dedicated to plant health and coordinating efforts to have the year declared.

Read more of the FAO announcement

Acknowledgement: reproduced from a media release by the Food and Agriculture Organization