Plant health is essential for human survival. Consider the impact of the Irish potato famine in 1845, when late blight, a fungal disease, decimated potato harvests for several years, causing an estimated one million deaths due to starvation.
To draw attention to the essential role of plants, which provide 98 per cent of the oxygen we breathe and most of the food we eat – or food for the food we eat – the United Nations declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health with four main themes: helping to end hunger, reducing poverty, protecting the environment and boosting economic development.
“The federal government recognizes that protecting Canada’s plant resources is vital to food security and the well-being of Canadians,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. “Plants are not only the first link in the food chain, they are critical to Canada’s economy. The national crop industry generates over $22-billion in exports alone.”
While Canada’s food industry strives to maintain the highest level of plant health and food safety, the spread of pests and diseases – especially through global trade and travel – presents serious risks to agriculture and to the environment.
Diseases and pests can attack and weaken both wild and domesticated plants, and the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that diseases and pests cause a loss of 40 per cent of the crops produced globally every year.
Given the importance of plant health for food security, economic development and the environment, Canadians are encouraged to take action by knowing about and reporting pests to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and getting involved with the #PlantHealth and #IYPH2020 conversations on social media to raise awareness about plant protection.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.