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2020: International Year of Plant Health

Minister Creed, FAO director-general Qu Dongyu, and other delegates launching 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. Photo: DAFM.

The International Year of Plant Health will emphasise prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health.



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18 December 2019

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 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.

Every year, up to 40% of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases. This leads to annual agricultural trade losses of over €197.5bn ($220bn), 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 Qu Dongyu, FAO director-general.

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” said Dongyu.

What will the International Year of Plant Health do?

According to the FAO, FAO and its International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) will lead activities to make the year a success as well as promote plant health beyond 2020.

The year will emphasise prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health.

The key objectives of the year are: raising awareness of the importance of healthy plants for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighting the impact of plant health on food security and ecosystem functions, and sharing best practices on how to keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.

By preventing the spread and introduction of pests into new areas, governments, farmers, and other actors of the food chain, such as the private sector, can save billions of euro and ensure access to quality food.

Keeping plants or plant products free from pests and diseases also helps facilitate trade and ensures market access especially for developing countries. For this, it is important to strengthen the adherence to harmonised international phytosanitary regulations and standards.

When combating pests and diseases, farmers and growers should adopt, and policymakers should encourage the use of, environmentally friendly methods such as integrated pest management to help keep plants healthy whilst protecting the environment.

Ireland representation

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle, spoke at the event alongside Edward Centeno Gadea, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Nicaragua; 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.

“Ireland has been a strong supporter from the start of this process, both conceptually and financially, of the International Year of Plant Health and looks forward to rolling out the key messages.”, said Minister Creed.

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