UN Issues New Standards to Curb Spread of Xylella

Updated fumigation standards, new ground rules for international trade in agricultural products and the development of new technologies to screen plants and plant products for diseases were among the standards approved by the body.

Photo courtesy of ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Apr 5, 2019 1:29 PM EDT
By Daniel Dawson
Photo courtesy of ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

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At a recent meet­ing in Rome, the inter­na­tional body respon­si­ble for pre­vent­ing the spread of dis­eases and imple­ment­ing safe plant trad­ing prac­tices met to adopt new stan­dards meant to curb the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa, as well as five other pest-borne dis­eases.

The stan­dards that the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) agreed to imple­ment included pro­to­cols to block the spread of inva­sive pests, such as the olive fruit fly, from cross­ing inter­na­tional bor­ders.

Many farm­ers and gov­ern­ments grap­ple with ward­ing off highly destruc­tive pests and dis­eases that are — on top of every­thing else — also new to them.- Bukar Tijani, FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department

With increased trade and travel, the risks of plant pests spread­ing into new areas across bor­ders is now higher than ever before,” Bukar Tijani, the assis­tant direc­tor gen­eral of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, told the gath­er­ing.

Each day, we wit­ness a shock­ing num­ber of threats to the well-being of our plants and, by exten­sion, to our health, envi­ron­ment and econ­omy,” he added.

See Also: Xylella fas­tidiosa News

The FAO, which runs the com­mis­sion, esti­mates that Xylella fas­tidiosa has been respon­si­ble for the destruc­tion of hun­dreds of thou­sands of acres of olive trees across the Americas, Europe and Asia.


In Italy alone, it is esti­mated that the dis­ease has destroyed 445,000 acres of olive trees, cost­ing mil­lions of Euros of dam­age. Xylella fas­tidiosa has also infected olive trees in both Spain’s Balearic Islands and France. The dis­ease has also been iden­ti­fied on Spain’s main­land, but so far only in almond and cherry trees.

According to a study recently released by the University of Málaga, there is also con­cern that the dis­ease could spread to Africa, Australia and parts of East Asia as well.

Overall, the FAO esti­mates that between 20 and 40 per­cent of annual global crop pro­duc­tion is lost to pests. This, along with other plant dis­eases, costs the global econ­omy about $290 bil­lion each year.

Many farm­ers and gov­ern­ments grap­ple with ward­ing off highly destruc­tive pests and dis­eases that are — on top of every­thing else — also new to them,” Tijani said.

The new stan­dards, which will be adopted by the CPM and their sub­com­mit­tee in charge of set­ting and imple­ment­ing global phy­tosan­i­tary stan­dards, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), included set­ting uni­ver­sal guid­ances on the use of fumi­ga­tion; imple­ment­ing diag­nos­tic pro­to­cols for cor­rectly iden­ti­fy­ing inva­sive plant pathogens and react­ing accord­ingly; set­ting stan­dard ground rules for inter­na­tional trade in agri­cul­tural goods; devel­op­ing new tech­nolo­gies to more effec­tively screen plants and plant prod­ucts for dis­eases; and reduc­ing the risk of trans­port­ing plant pests via sea con­tain­ers.

However, the FAO warned that list­ing new stan­dards alone does not solve the prob­lem. Governments, farm­ers and exporters must also be will­ing to invest in imple­ment­ing solu­tions and work­ing together to pre­vent the spread of dis­eases, such as Xylella fas­tidiosa.

To high­light the per­va­sive prob­lem of inva­sive pests in the global food sup­ply chain, the U.N. General Assembly announced that 2020 will be the inter­na­tional year of plant health.

Despite the increas­ing impact of plant pests, resources are scarce to address the prob­lem,” Jingyuan Xia, IPPC’s Secretary, said The CPM meet­ing will dis­cuss how the inter­na­tional year of plant health could trig­ger greater global col­lab­o­ra­tion, engage­ment and aware­ness to sup­port plant health poli­cies at all lev­els.”

In the spirit of announce­ment, Angelo Annese, the mayor of Monopoli, a town in Italy’s south­ern region of Puglia that has been com­bat­ing the spread of the dis­ease for more than a year, pledged €40,000 ($44,900) to com­bat Xylella fas­tidiosa on Friday.

Public and pri­vate enti­ties are obliged to take strate­gic action to com­bat the devel­op­ment of the insect pop­u­la­tion by adopt­ing the most suit­able phy­tosan­i­tary mea­sures,” Sante Scarafino, a spokesman for the city coun­cil said in a state­ment.


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