The world must make more investments in innovation to boost food security and plant health, especially for the billions of people worldwide living close to the bread line, said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the occasion of the first International Day of Plant Health (IDPH), marked on May 12.
Healthy plants can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment boost economic development. Even though plants make up 80 per cent of the food we eat and provide 98 per cent of the oxygen we breathe, threats to their survival in many cases are piling up, said the UN food agency in a statement issued to mark the day.
According to recent data, up to 40 per cent of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases annually. This affects both food security and agriculture. Then come climate change and human activities, which are altering ecosystems and damaging biodiversity while creating new niches for pests to thrive in.
“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, adding that investments are needed in research to find more resilient and sustainable additions to the human diet.
The priorities should be sustainable pest management and pesticides through the promotion of green and digital plant protection and creating enabling surroundings for plant health by enhancing the health of soils, seeds, and pollinators.
The UN agency also called on governments to prioritise plant health formulate policies and legislation for its sustainable management, and on academia and research institutions to deliver science-based solutions.
The IDPH day was designated in 2020 to raise global awareness of the importance of plant health. Championed by Zambia, the day was unanimously adopted in a General-Assembly resolution co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.