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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid