News / Africa

Global Trade Carries Risk of Pests

This July 2012 photo released by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service shows a male, left, and female, right, spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fruit fly. The insect was first detected in Maine in small numbers in the summer of 2011. B
This July 2012 photo released by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service shows a male, left, and female, right, spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fruit fly. The insect was first detected in Maine in small numbers in the summer of 2011. B

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
More than one trillion dollars’ worth of agricultural products is traded every year. But as countries buy and sell fruits, vegetables, timber and other products, they also may be putting domestic plants at risk. That’s why new standards have been issued under the International Plant Protection Treaty.


The global trade in agriculture means the food someone eats may have come from a country thousands of miles away. But as food is unloaded from ships and planes, some unwelcome visitors may find a new home. Many already have.

Take the stink bug, for example, in the United States. It’s believed to have arrived from China and finds American fruit crops delicious. Pests can also include fruit fly eggs or fungal spores. Some of the well known threats include wheat rust, African army worms, Cassava Bacterial Blight and the European Grapevine Moth.  The list goes on.

That’s where the International Plant Protection Convention comes in.

“The convention originated back in 1952. It’s been revised a couple of times – 1979 and 1997. The purpose of the convention is to develop standards for trade and plants and plant products. And it’s recognized as one of the three standard setting bodies under the World Trade Organization,” said Craig Fedchock, who’s the convention coordinator.

At the convention’s annual meeting in Rome, upgraded standards were issued for pest risk analysis. It gives greater guidance for determining whether an imported plant might be a threat to cultivated or wild plants. Fedchock said that another standard was revised regarding wood packaging material.

“Everybody in the world has probably seen a wood pallet at some time or other. Well, that pallet is made generally from wood that’s not the best quality wood. Maybe the trees are dead when being made into pallets and beetles will bore into that wood and then they’ll emerge. And they can be a devastating forest pest. And we have evidence again, being from the U.S., of something like the Asian Longhorn Beetle, which has quite a voracious appetite for certain trees. But this isn’t limited to the United States. There’s Pinewood Nematode in China. It’s around the world,” he said.

The risk of pests is growing due to the sheer amount of global trade.

“More and more things are being traded. More and more people are traveling. The risks associated with people bringing a piece of fruit or some fruit from a backyard tree to a relative in another country – that’s happening more frequently. Or new and exotic fruits and vegetables are coming from one country to another or another hemisphere to another hemisphere -- the risks increase incrementally just by the volume of trade<” he said.

He said that serious harm can be done to a country if a risk assessment is not done.

“A pest risk assessment is a valuable part of the entire process of trade to make sure that a country can protect itself, but yet ensure that anything that does get imported is safe.”

Other treaty standards are being looked at for possible revision, including guidelines for sea containers.

He said, “Sea containers contain a lot of things beyond food – sometimes farm equipment, sometimes computers or what have you. They have the little nooks and crannies. They have the corners where some pests can go and lay some eggs that go unnoticed unless it’s properly cleaned. If those pests get an opportunity through an open container door to just wander out into a new environment it can be pretty bad for the environment it’s wandering into.”

Even garbage must be monitored.

“When ships arrive in a port, garbage is an issue. Or flights coming in from another country, the trash can be a significant issue. A little fruit fly can lay its eggs in a skin of a piece of fruit ,and unless you’re really an expert looking for these things you might not ever notice that this has taken place,” he said.

It’s difficult to estimate how much damage agricultural pests do every year, but it’s believed to be in the billions. Countries that have pests may not want trading partners to know the full extent of the problem.

The coordinator of the International Plant Protection Convention said it’s easier and cheaper to prevent a pest problem than it is to get rid of one.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More