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November 9th, 2018 / International Potato Centre

By the year 2050, the global population is estimated to exceed 9 billion. We will need to feed more people with fewer resources while addressing the challenges posed by climate change. An expected side-effect of rising temperatures is a population boom of the insects and diseases that threaten agricultural productivity. The Food and Agriculture Organization deems pests and diseases as the second most significant threat to nature because of the severity of their impact on human, plant and animal health, people’s ability to generate income, and the economy itself. Giovanna Muller, Head of the International Potato Center (CIP) Science Laboratories Unit and Interim Deputy Head of the Germplasm Health Quarantine Unit shares insights on phytosanitation’s essential role in mitigating the spread of pests and diseases to ensure that farmers attain optimal harvests.

What role does phytosanitation play in food security?

Plant health or phytosanitation is essential from the perspective of food security because pests and diseases impact crops. They have a direct effect on productivity and in some cases, depending on the diseases, even on processing quality. For example, Zebra chip disease causes specific undesirable patterns on potato chips rendering them unsellable, which ultimately affects producer income.

What impact do globalization and climate change have on the incidence of pests and diseases?

Phytosanitary vigilance and prevention work to diminish the impact of pests and diseases at the global level. In the context of climate change and globalization, pests and diseases have begun to change their behavior and distribution. In the case of cross-border pests, as they extend to regions where they were once absent, they are going to have a significant impact on production. It is essential that we are all aware of this and not just those who are directly involved in plant health work. The general public needs to understand the risks involved when transporting agricultural material. When someone takes a bouquet of flowers from one region to another, it may seem innocuous, but they might carry insect vectors and diseases, which can establish and extend themselves into new areas. Raising awareness on the importance of this work can help diminish these effects. Read more