The world’s first International Plant Health Conference (IPHC) is set to get underway at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London today (Wednesday, September 21).

The three-day conference has been co-organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It’s set to see more than 500 policymakers, academics and experts from over 74 countries come together to discuss current and future plant health challenges, including the impacts of climate change; food security; environmental protection; facilitating safe trade; and new pest and disease pathways, such as e-commerce.

Delegates are expected to share knowledge and discuss global scientific, technical and regulatory issues, alongside actions to tackle these existential threats to our society, economy and environment.

“The first International Plant Health Conference is an important advancement of our work in protecting plants from pests and diseases,” Osama El-Lissy, secretary, International Plant Protection Convention, said.

“We are very pleased to partner with Defra who shares FAO’s and IPPC’s common goals. We cannot underestimate the impact that plant pests and diseases have on global food security, livelihoods, the environment and economies.”

Nicola Spence, the UK’s chief plant health officer will be attending the conference.

“I look forward to coming together with international experts from a range of disciplines to discuss how to tackle the varied and mounting challenges facing our precious plant life,” she said.

“Plant health and biosecurity are fundamental to life on Earth. Plants provide 80% of the food we eat and 98% of the oxygen we breathe.

“In a changing climate, ensuring their continued health and vitality will be critical to safeguarding food security, safe international trade and a thriving natural environment for future generations.”

International Plant Health Conference

Across the three days of the IPHC, plenary sessions will explore a range of scientific, regulatory and technical issues, including:

  • Regional perspectives on tackling ongoing pest and disease outbreaks, including Xylella fastidiosa, fall armyworm and coconut rhinoceros beetle;
  • How to increase the use of electronic phytosanitary certificates to make trade safer, faster and cheaper; and
  • The development and adoption of early warning systems for pests and diseases to increase vigilance and preparedness for future outbreaks.