UN highlights plant health, crucial to increasing food security worldwide — Global Issues

plants under threat

Healthy plants have the power to help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and drive economic development. But while plants make up 80% of the food we eat and provide 98% of the oxygen we breathe, threats to their survival in many cases are piling up.

According to recent data, until 40 percent of food crops are lost because plant pests and diseases every year, and this affects both food security and agriculture, the main source of income for vulnerable rural communities.

Climate change and human activities are also altering ecosystems and damaging biodiversity, while creating new niches for pests to thrive.

In addition, FAO says that protecting plants from pests and diseases is much more cost-effective than dealing with phytosanitary emergencies. This is because once established, plant pests and diseases are often difficult to eradicate and need to be controlled through sustainable pest and pesticide management.

Human health depends on plants

“On this first International Plant Health Day, reflect on phytosanitary innovations for food safety” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, adding that research investments are needed to find more resilient and sustainable additions to the human diet.

“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable“, he continued.

Plant protection is essential for people and the planet, which is why the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has mapped out several priorities for plant health, coinciding with the Inaugural Day.

Focus on sustainable pest and pesticide management by promoting green and digital plant protection; and creating environments conducive to plant health, improving the health of soils, seeds and pollinators are among the top priorities.

FAO is calling on governments to prioritize plant health and its sustainable management in policy and legislation formulation, and for academic and research institutions to provide science-based solutions.

Why an International Day?

Having been established as an important legacy of the International Year of Plant Health 2020, the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) was designed to raise global awareness of how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.

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Defended by Zambia, it was unanimously adopted in a General Assembly resolution co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

Following this year’s first IDPH, FAO will organize celebrations for the Day every 12 May globally, regionally, nationally and even potentially at a farm near you.

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