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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid