protect plant health
© Igor Stevanovic |

Greg Rosenthal, Communications Specialist at the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, highlights why 2020 is the year to protect plant health and argues that thriving plants mean thriving people

The United Nations (U.N.) had many compelling reasons to declare 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Consider just a few of them: Healthy plants are the foundation of all life on Earth. They make the oxygen we breathe and give us 80% of the food we eat. Plants sustain our livestock and poultry. They also provide habitat for wildlife, form the base of nature’s food chains, and help biodiversity to thrive.

In addition, agricultural trade in plants and plant products has become crucial for human survival and economic growth in rural areas, and it is worth nearly $1.7 trillion annually. Over the past decade, its growth has almost tripled.

Plant health is under threat

But today, plants face an ever-growing threat: invasive pests. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, they destroy up to 40% of food crops globally and cause $220 billion in trade losses annually. They can also throw ecosystems out of balance and devastate biodiversity. Unfortunately, invasive pests can spread through global agricultural trade.

To feed the world’s growing population, agricultural production must increase by about 60% by 2050, according to the U.N.’s estimates. That means we must do everything we can to protect plant health from destructive invasive pests.

The IYPH is a global outreach campaign to promote the value of our precious plant resources and the need to safeguard them against invasive pests. The year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this crucial information out to the public.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is all in

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the natural U.S. champion for the year. APHIS defends our country against invasive plant pests and diseases. Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program is the United States’ national plant protection organization. In this role, we have a two-part mission:

Our work promotes a healthy, abundant food supply here in the United States and around the world. It also helps to sustain a vibrant, biologically diverse natural environment. And it supports our Nation’s economic growth by helping U.S. growers and producers deliver high-quality food and agricultural products to the world.

USDA’s plans for 2020

Throughout 2020, PPQ and our cooperators will be champions for this campaign by helping to:

  • Raise awareness that plant health is crucial for all life on Earth.
  • Prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and diseases.
  • Control, manage, and when possible, eradicate plant pests and diseases to protect food crops, forests, and other natural resources.
  • Emphasise the vital role that national and regional plant health organisations play in protecting plants from deadly pests and diseases.

USDA and our many partners in the plant protection community will be broadcasting the message through our Hungry Pests invasive species outreach program. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, will play a major role. In addition, we are coordinating a large conference.

USDA’s International Year of Plant Health Conference

From August 18th to 20th, we will host a major IYPH conference in Washington, DC, in collaboration with the North American Plant Protection Organization. We are calling it “Safeguarding 2020: Bringing the Future into Focus.”

This event will bring together leaders from government agencies at the Federal, State, and county levels; industry associations; private companies; academia; domestic and international non-governmental organisations; and foreign governments.

During these three days, the participants will:

  • Explore the role of different sectors in safeguarding plant health and facilitating safe trade.
  • Analyse the supply chain from a phytosanitary perspective to identify areas where targeted actions, research, investments, or other interventions may be needed over the next five to 10 years.
  • Showcase new, emerging, and nascent methods, tools, and technologies from all sectors that are used – or could be used – to safeguard plant health and facilitate safe trade.
  • And much more.

Our goal is to build stronger relationships between government, industry, and academia and create a shared vision for how we will collaborate in the years to come to strengthen safeguarding and make global agricultural trade safer. We will do all of this with the singular goal of identifying strategic activities and investments that public and private entities could undertake to ensure sustainable and profitable agriculture, healthy forests and ecosystems, and a safe and prosperous global trade system in the next decade.

Every nation should participate

USDA hopes every nation joins this worldwide celebration of plants in 2020. An international year underscores the importance of collaborative approaches and strategic partnerships among the world’s nations to counter and contain the global spread of pests.

In the age of global agricultural trade, a plant pest threat anywhere in the world can become a threat anywhere else in the world. Let us treasure our plants and be grateful for all the life they sustain.

Contributor Profile

Communications Specialist, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Phone: + 1 844 820 2234
Website: Visit Website


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