Scientists say a One Health approach to plant health is vital to achieving sustainable global food security
A team of scientists argues that a One Health approach to plant health is vital if we are to sustainably feed a growing population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
The researchers, who published a commentary in the CABI Agriculture and Life Sciences magazine, suggest that a One Health perspective can help optimize the net benefits of crop protection to achieve greater food security and nutritional gains.
One Health is an integrated, connecting approach aimed at sustainably balancing and optimizing the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognizes that the health of people, domestic and wild animals, plants and the wider environment are closely linked and interdependent.
dr. Vivian Hoffmann, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is a lead author of the commentary, which focuses on two primary trade-offs that lie at the interface of plant health with animal, ecosystem and human health.
dr. Hoffmann and the researchers say protecting plant health through the use of agrochemicals versus minimizing risks to human health and resistance to antibiotics and insecticides is a consideration. Another, the scientists argue, is ensuring food security by prioritizing crop health to maximize agricultural production, versus protecting environmental systems.
The commentary, which stems from a webinar hosted by CGIAR and attended by more than 200 participants from around the world, discusses challenges and opportunities for progress related to each of these trade-offs – by considering how stakeholders’ priorities and constraints may differ by gender.
It highlights that building the capacity of regulators in low- and middle-income countries to conduct cost-benefit analyzes has the potential to improve decision-making in the context of these and other multidimensional trade-offs.
The webinar included presentations on the sustainable intensification, plant health benefits and human health risks of using manure and wastewater to fertilize food crops; Tanzania’s experience with “pesticide regulation” management of plant-related food safety risks where regulatory capacity is weak, and the role of gender in One Health.
dr. Hoffmann said: “Increasing crop yields through healthy plants is critical to achieving food security for a growing world population. But agricultural production also threatens environmental processes underlying human health.”
For example, the comment highlights that agriculture is responsible for 34% of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes 84% of fresh water and is the largest source of eutrophication causing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in aquatic systems.
“Interventions to encourage plant health practices that balance ecological concerns and food production will need to consider farmers’ constraints, needs and motivations, including those mediated by gender,” added Dr. Hoffmann to it.
Webinar participants made the point that farmers and other stakeholders with limited resources, and women in particular, may not have the luxury of prioritizing environmental sustainability.
dr. Hoffmann said: “This highlights the need for external funding, perhaps through international green development or climate funds, to promote environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.”
The scientists also believe that trade-offs are expected to largely depend on the intensity of exposure to environmental hazards, food security status and income levels – all of which vary from country to country. Therefore, in their view, there is a need for context-specific analysis, and as such greater capacity for cost-benefit analysis in low-middle-income countries as a matter of priority.
Agriculture and fertilizers: how ecological practices can make a difference
A one health approach to plant health, CABI Agriculture and Life Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s43170-022-00118-2
Provided by CAB
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