b'A Once in a Lifetime OpportunityTHE IYPH AIMS TO RAISE GLOBAL AWARENESS ON HOW PROTECTING PLANT HEALTH CAN HELP. BY: MARCEL BRUINST he United Nations General Assembly declaredgive farmers access to the best quality seeds that 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health.play a major role in helping them to respond to cli-According to the Food and Agriculturemate change and the new pest and disease pres-Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), plantssures it brings. make up 80% of the food we eat, and plant pests areAs with human health, protecting plants from responsible for the loss of up to 40% of global foodpests and diseases is far more cost effective than crops, and for trade losses in agricultural productsdealing with full-blown health emergencies. And in exceeding USD 220 billion annually. Plant breedingfact, were seeing a very similar situation with the is a major driver to secure the availability of food bycurrent COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have been strengthening resistance to plant diseases, insectspredicting such an epidemic for over a decade now. and with that reducing crop loss. European Seed satHad preventive measures been taken, the costs for down with Christophe Rouillard, Technical Managerthe global economy, not to mention the lives lost, at Euroseeds in Brussels. would have been much, much less. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity toThus, prevention is critical for avoiding theChristophe Rouillardraise global awareness and inspiring people to learndevastating impact of pests on agriculture, liveli-more about plant health. Ensuring that seeds arehoods and food security. The public and private healthy is the precondition for healthy crops andsector should invest more in plant health initiatives, crucial for agricultural production as well the envi- research and innovative technologies to continue ronment, says Rouillard. to be among the world leaders in seed productionDID YOU KNOW:and to foster an economy that works for people and Plants are essential delivers stability and growth, adds Rouillard. to all life on Earth, The International Year of Plant Health isincluding humanity. PREVENTION IS the opportunity for the European seed sector toThey provide the highlight their practices in terms of plant healthoxygen we breathe and CRITICAL FOR AVOIDINGresearch and development, implementation of pre- over 80% of the food THE DEVASTATING IMPACTvention and risk mitigation measures and thereforewe eat.the contribution to the seed sector to deliver on OF PESTS ON AGRICULTURE,the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.Protecting plant health can help feed LIVELIHOODS AND It is crucial that we raise global awareness ona growing world FOOD SECURITY. how protecting plant health is crucial for the agripopulation, protect the food chain, says Rouillard. Protecting plant healthenvironment, and boost can help feed a growing world population, protecteconomic development.the environment, and boost economic development. We also need to engage with an interested public FAO estimates that The European plant breeding sector has a longon how plant health is contributing to their dailyup to 40 per cent of history record of its quality of seeds of improvedlife, he adds. At the end of the day, we need tofood crops are lost varieties which makes Europe the largest exportergain a greater acceptance of the importance ofto plant pests and in the global seed market. Moving plants and plantplant health. diseases annually. That products, including seeds across borders may beThe main messages Rouillard would like read- is why plant health is risky as this may spread plant pests and diseases,ers of this article to remember are: crucial to contribute to causing great damage to native plants and the1. Plant health is incredibly important becausesustainable agriculture.environment. Yet, the enforcement by the seedplants form the basis of our food chain.Plants form the sector of the EU regulation on protective meas- 2.Keeping plants healthy aims to achievebasis of our food ures against pests of plants, in compliance withZero Hunger and the UN Sustainablechain. Without plant the International Plant Protection Convention andDevelopment Goals. production there would international standards, helps keeping trade in3.We need to keep plants healthy while pro- be neither food for seeds safe without setting up unnecessary barriers. tecting the environment. humans nor feed for According to Rouillard, more plant pests are4. We need to make trading in plants and plantanimals. appearing earlier and in places where they wereproducts safe by complying with interna-never seen before due to climate change. Planttional plant health standards.Promoting plant breeding is the science of recombining plant genet- 5.As with human health, protecting plantshealth is fundamental ics into new varieties with improved stress-tol- from pests and diseases is far more costfor reaching the erances and disease-resistance. Innovativeeffective than dealing with full blown emer- SDGs Sustainable approaches in plant breeding and seed productiongencies.Development Goals30IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'