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New standards to curb spread of plant pests and diseases

The International Plant Protection Convention has adopted standards on fumigation and six pests including Xylella fastidiosa and the oriental fruit fly

The body charged with keeping plant pests and diseases at bay and trade in plants safe adopted new international measures to prevent pests from crossing borders and spreading.

The standards, including protocols to block highly invasive pests such as Xylella fastidiosa and the oriental fruit fly, were approved during the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures' (CPM) annual meeting.

CPM is the governing body of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) - the only international body charged with setting and implementing phytosanitary standards recognised by governments around the world and the World Trade Organization-SPS agreement to facilitate safe trade and protect plant health.

“With increased trade and travel, the risk of plant pests spreading into new areas across borders is now higher than ever before. Each day, we witness a shocking number of threats to the well-being of our plants and, by extension, to our heath, environment and economy,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO assistant director-general for agriculture and consumer protection department.

FAO estimates that annually between 20 and 40 per cent of global crop production are lost to pests. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy around US$220bn and invasive insects around US$70bn.

“Many farmers and governments grapple with warding off highly destructive pests and diseases that are - on top of everything else - also new to them. The IPPC provides them with the tools and knowledge to keep their plants healthy and prevent pests from jumping borders,” added Tijani.

New IPPC standards include:

A new standard to provide guidance on improved fumigation methods. The standard sets requirements for temperature, duration, fumigants' quantity to make fumigation effective and put forward solutions to lessen fumigation's environmental impact

Diagnostics protocols that describe procedures and methods for the official diagnosis of six pests, including Xylella fastidiosa and the oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis).

Xylella fastidiosais a deadly bacterium that attacks economically important crops such as olive, citrus or plum trees and grapevines. Since 2015, it's been rapidly spreading from the Americas to Europe and Asia. Once Xylella fastidiosa infiltrates a plant, it is there to stay - it starves the plant of water until the plant dies or becomes too weak to grow fruit.

The oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) has affected trees such as avocado, banana, guava and mango in at least 65 countries. In Africa, import trade bans due to oriental fruit fly infestations cause annual losses of around US$2bn.

As of today, the CPM has adopted more than 100 International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), covering all areas of plant quarantine.