International Organizations Fighting Plant Pathogens, Antimicrobial Resistance, Rabies
Peter Luethi, Biovision Foundation
story highlights

The IPPC has reviewed and updated its International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures on determining pest status.

IEA has inaugurated a new nuclear facility to assist countries in developing measures to control the spread of harmful pests.

FAO and EU committed to enhanced collaboration on controlling the spread of antimicrobial resistance and reducing food waste and loss.

FAO, OIE and WHO formed an alliance to eradicate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

4 October 2017: Animal and plant health are closely related to human health and well-being (SDG 3) as diseases affecting livestock can also affect humans and crop pests and pathogens can reduce harvests and destroy food stocks thus reducing food accessibility and food safety. Recent actions by international organizations aim to improve phytosanitary measures, reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance and eradicate dog-transmitted rabies.

The international community’s main approach to reduce the risk of human health impacts from animal and plant diseases is developing international standards through institutions such as the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), or the Codex Alimentarius under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

IPPC Updates Phytosanitary Standards, Holds Regional Consultations

The IPPC recently updated one of its most important standards and held a series of regional meetings to advance implementation. The International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) number eight addresses measures that countries should take to determine whether certain pests or pathogens are present in their food systems. This information is key to ensuring that pests and pathogens do not spread through international trade. Originally adopted in 1998, the Standard was revised by a meeting of experts in September 2017. The group proposed revisions to pest status categories, clarified responsibilities for determining pest status, and brought several areas of the standard in line with other more recent standards. [IPPC Press Release. 3 October 2017. Modernization of ISPM 8]

The IPPC also co-organized a regional workshop for the Asia and Pacific Region with the Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC) in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 4-8 September 2017. Participants considered draft ISPMs proposed for adoption by the IPPC Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), and exchanged experiences and technical expertise regarding their implementation. Other issues discussed included the sea container programmes of China and New Zealand and future activities. [IPPC Press Release. 4 October 2017. Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop]

In other news, the IPPC reported that the Maltese Plant Protection Directorate introduced ‘Xylellu,’ a purplish, scary-looking, traveler mascot, for an awareness raising campaign about the dangers of introducing pests and pathogens when bringing back plants of fruits from travels abroad. Named after Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial plant pathogen that can severely damage more than 300 plant species, Xylellu will be patrolling airports in Malta and other EU countries to remind passengers to refrain from traveling with plants or fruits that could be carriers of the disease. [IPPC Press Release. 29 September 2017. Xylellu]

IEA Inaugurates Nuclear Facility for Insect Pest Control

One of the technical challenges of plant protection is the development techniques that can combat harmful insects, such as fruit flies and mosquitoes. One approach targets a form of “birth control” for insects to reduce the growth of their populations, named the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). This technique uses radiation to sterilize male insects so that they cannot produce offspring. Implementing SIT approaches requires access to sophisticated nuclear laboratory facilities. One such facility, the Insect Pest Control Laboratory (IPCL), was opened by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in late September to assist countries in developing SIT treatments for insect pests. The new laboratory is a milestone in IEA’s efforts to upgrade and modernize its nuclear facilities established to assist countries in developing nuclear technology applications in areas such as health or plant pest control. [IEA Press Release][UN Press Release][IEA Director General Remarks at Opening Ceremony]

FAO Urges Investments in Surveillance of Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance

Another area of intersection between animal and human health is the use of antimicrobials in animal production, which can lead to the emergence of bacteria that are resistant against antibiotics and other forms of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR reduces the medical arsenal available to treat diseases affecting humans. In 2016, the UN adopted a Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance, followed by the FAO’s adoption of an Action Plan.

Reminding FAO members of the urgent need to take measures to implement the Action Plan, FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo called for more investments and surveillance to reduce the misuse of antimicrobials in public health and agriculture. Speaking at a side event during the UN General Assembly, she stressed surveillance in hospitals and throughout the food chain, including comprehensive risk assessments. She also underlined the need for improved mechanisms in addition to the existing global surveillance guidance developed by the Codex Alimentarius.

In part honoring the call, the EU and FAO committed to strengthening collaboration on AMR and food waste. In a joint letter of intent the two organizations promise to intensify cooperation on tackling the spread of AMR through enhancing exchange of information, joint advocacy and education efforts on responsible use of antimicrobials, supporting countries in developing legal frameworks, and conducting joint training and capacity building. The organizations also agree to synchronize efforts to quantify food losses and waste at each stage of the food chain. [FAO Press Release. 21 September 2017. Statement of Maria Helena Semedo][FAO Press Release. 29 September 2017. EU-FAO Collaboration][FAO Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2016-2020]

FAO, WHO, and OIE form Alliance for a Rabies-free World

Rabies are likely the most well-known example of an animal disease that can affect and even kill humans. Eradicating the disease could prevent up to 59,000 deaths per year, thus making a substantial contribution to achieving SDG 3 (Global health and well-being). Experts believe that eradicating rabies is technically possible, however, doing so requires globally coordinated efforts in the application of vaccines and other measures. FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and OIE, have formed the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) to end human deaths from dog transmitted rabies by 2030. The Alliance partners adopted the plan ‘United against Rabies under which they aim to: improve awareness and education to reduce human rabies risk through expanded dog vaccinations and access to healthcare, medicines and vaccines; generate and measure impact by implementing proven and effective guidelines; and demonstrating the impact of ‘United against Rabies collaboration’ in national, regional and global rabies elimination programmes. [FAO Press Release. 28 September. Rabies][Zero by 30: The Global Strategic Plan to Prevent Human Deaths from Dog-Transmitted Rabies by 2030][FAO Fact Sheet on Rabies Prevention and Control]

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