The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), a body saddled with the protection of global trade in plants and plant products, has introduced new standards to eliminate the spread of destructive agricultural and environmental pests, which is estimated to costs global Agric-production an annual deficit of $220 billion, a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report has said.
The new phytosanitary measures designed to tackle devastating impacts on biodiversity, food security and trade, include use of various temperature treatments against pests, cold treatment techniques that freeze and kill pests as well as those that raise temperatures past their survival threshold, revised standard for sanitation of wood packing materials and an expanded standard on the use of heat vapour to kill Oriental Fruit Flies among others.
“The norm covers cold treatment techniques that freeze and kill pests as well as those that raise temperatures past their survival threshold. This can be achieved by submerging them in extremely hot water or exposing them to superheated steam (for commodities vulnerable to drying out, such as fruits, vegetables or flower bulbs) or dry heat (ideal for low moisture-content items such as seeds or grain).
An existing standard, known as ISPM-15, was updated to include the use of sulphuryl fluoride, a gas insecticide and new-generation heating technologies that employ microwave and radio frequency waves to generate pestkilling temperatures deep inside wood products,” the report said.
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Oriental fruit flies, it noted, remained a highly destructive fruit-attacking Bactrocera dorsalis which originated from Asia has spread to about 65 countries including Africa, where it has cost the continent an estimated $2 billion in annual losses due to fruit export bans.
The control technique outlined under the new measure kills 99.98 percent of the bug’s eggs and larvae when used correctly. Maria Semedo, FAO deputy director-general, speaking at the opening of this year’s IPPC annual meeting in Rome said: “this is challenging work with high stakes: each year an estimated 10-16 percent of our global harvest is lost to plant pests. A loss estimated at $220 billion.” About $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year, with food accounting for over 80 percent of that total, according to FAO data.
The IPPC commission also approved revisions that streamline existing standards targeting fruit flies to make it easier for countries to comply with them and improve their effectiveness.
It endorsed new diagnostic protocols for sudden oak death, a fungi-like organism of unknown origin that attacks a wide range of trees and shrubs in nurseries, introduced into western North America and Western Europe through the ornamental plants trade.
The dangerous hitchhikers carried by global trade, plant pests and diseases, once introduced into new environments can quickly take root and spread, impacting food production and causing billions in economic damages and control cost. One recent study in East Africa, for instance, found that just five invasive alien species could be causing as much as $1.1 billion in economic losses annually to smallholder farmers in the region.
Not only can fruits, crops and seeds become infected, but the containers and boxes they travel in, as well. Packaging for overseas shipments is commonly constructed from wood, which is relatively inexpensive and easily manufactured but also easily infested with a variety of bark and wood pests, and so act as a vector. Timber and wood-made products like furniture can harbour stowaways, also.
This means that not only are food crops at risk, but forests and trees as well. Recent studies shared during this week’s meeting have shown that the loss of tree cover due to invasive pests may result in an increase in stress related-diseases and possibly elevated human mortality rates. The Republic of Korea, for instance, was recently forced to cut down some 3.5 million trees as a result of the pinewood nematode, and over the past three decades has spent nearly half a billion dollars on control programmes to fight the deadly pest. Additional sums have been spent in Canada and the United States in attempts to stop, the far unstoppable. Emerald Ash Borer.