SPS Topics: Plant Health

Image of a fruit with pest damage.
Fruits with Pest Damage

Plants form the basis of all human food through both direct consumption and as feed for livestock, so human health and nutrition are highly dependent on plant health and productivity. Healthy plants are able to efficiently harness energy from the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water and nutrients from the soil to develop the building blocks that keep us fed. Healthy plants also release the oxygen we need to breathe. When plants are not healthy, they do not perform to their full genetic ability, leading to lower crop yields that threaten food security.

A wide range of variables can affect plant health, including pests, diseases, competition from weeds, climate change and variability, and environmental pollutants. An ongoing threat to plant health is the trade and movement of people and goods that facilitate the introduction, spread, and establishment of pests and diseases into new areas. Most nations in the world have protections in place that attempt to prevent the spread of pests and diseases that threaten plant health.

Over 180 nations are signatories to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) a multilateral treaty overseen by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization that aims to secure coordinated, effective action to prevent and to control the introduction and spread of pests of plants and plant products. The IPPC’s International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) is its main tool to achieve these goals. The IPPC is one of the three pillars of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement. The other two pillars are the Codex Alimentarius Commission for food safety standards and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for animal health standards.

Learn more about the AFSI Plant Health programs in East Africa and in West Africa, and review Plant Health resources.

Major SPS Topics

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