Plants under constant threat from pests, diseases
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Plants, the “core basis for life on Earth,” are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases, leaving millions facing hunger, the United Nations food agency warned Tuesday.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said some 40 percent of crops are lost to pests and disease every year, leaving millions facing hunger with human activity, including man-made climate change, a major factor in the losses.

FAO said plants make up 80 percent of the food people eat and produce 98 percent of the oxygen people breathe.

Human actions are reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. The growth of international travel and trade, which has tripled in volume in the last decade, means that pests and diseases can quickly spread around the world, causing great damage to native plants and the environment.

“Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and they are the single most important pillar of human nutrition,” said FAO Director General Qu Dongyu. “But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted.”

He pointed out that as with human or animal health, prevention in plant health is better, and far more cost-effective than cure: plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive.

The FAO said that by preventing the spread and introduction of pests into new areas, governments, farmers and others involved in the food chain, such as the private sector, can save billions of dollars and ensure access to quality food.

FAO designated 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health, which aims to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development. The year will emphasize prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health.

Among the FAO recommendations for healthy plant life are to stick to international plant health regulations and standards; fight pests and disease using environment-friendly methods; empower plant protection organizations, and form strategic partnerships with all relevant food system actors.

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