International Year of Plant Health

Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat, yet we often don’t think about keeping them healthy. This can have devastating results. FAO estimates that up to 40% of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases annually. This leaves millions of people without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture – the primary source of income for rural poor communities.

Plant health is increasingly under threat. Climate change, and human activities, have altered ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating new niches 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.

Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies. Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive. Prevention is critical to avoiding the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods and food security and many of us have a role to play.

Taking an ecosystem approach

We can both prevent plant pests and diseases, and tackle them, in environmentally friendly ways – such as through integrated pest management. This ecosystem approach combines different management strategies and practices to grow healthy crops while minimizing the use of pesticides. Avoiding poisonous substances when dealing with pests not only protects the environment, it also protects pollinators, natural pest enemies, beneficial organisms and the people and animals who depend on plants.

  • Everyone needs to avoid taking plants and plant products with them when travelling across borders.
  • People in the transportation industries need to make sure that ships, airplanes, trucks and trains don’t carry plant pests and diseases into new areas.
  • Governments need to increase their support to national and regional plant protection organizations that are the first line of defence.

Key Messages


Keep plants healthy to achieve Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat. Yet they are under constant attack from pests and diseases, which destroy from 20 to 40 percent of food crops every year. This leaves millions of people without enough food to eat, has a negative impact on rural poor communities’ main source of income, and results in both yield and trade losses. Policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular those aimed at eliminating hunger and malnutrition and reducing poverty and threats to the environment.

Be careful when bringing plants and plant products across borders.

Be cautious when bringing plants or plant products when travelling and always ensure these products meet phytosanitary requirements. This helps reduce the spread of plant pests and diseases, which can seriously damage national food security, the environment and economies. Be careful when ordering plants and plant products online, or through postal services, since packages can easily bypass regular phytosanitary controls.

Make trading in plants and plant products safe by complying with the international plant health standards

Many countries depend on trading plants and plant products to sustain their economies. Yet trade can increase the risk of plant pests and diseases spreading, and seriously damage plants and biodiversity. To make trade safe, it is important to implement international plant health standards and norms, such as those developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and FAO. This reduces the negative impact of pests and pesticides on human health, economies and the environment. It also makes it easier to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases without setting up unnecessary barriers to trade.

Keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.

Climate change and human actions have altered ecosystems and created new niches where plant pests and diseases can thrive. This poses a threat to the environment and, indeed, pests and diseases are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. When combatting pests and diseases, farmers should adopt, and policymakers should encourage the use of, environmentally friendly methods such as integrated pest management.

Invest in plant health capacity development, research and outreach.

Governments, legislators and policymakers should empower plant protection organizations and other relevant institutions, and provide them with adequate human and financial resources. They should also invest more in plant health related research and outreach, as well as innovative practices and technologies.

Strengthen monitoring and early warning systems to protect plants and plant health.

Policymakers and governments should ensure their decisions are based on sound preparation and data. Regularly monitoring plants, and receiving early warning information about emerging threats, helps governments, agricultural officers and farmers take preventive and adaptive measures to keep plants healthy.

In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution declaring 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

To support the IYPH proclamation, the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures established the IPPC IYPH Steering Committee in 2016, which currently serves as IYPH Technical Advisory Board (IYPH TAB).

In 2019, FAO and the IPPC Secretariat established the IYPH International Steering Committee (ISC).

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