Food availability and safe food are compromised every day by diseases and pests that affect plants and animals as well as by other contaminants such as food-borne pathogens. A third of global crop production is lost annually due to insects and plant diseases that can spread to multiple countries and through continents, and billions of dollars are lost every year due to animal diseases. The food security and livelihoods of rural families is directly threatened as a result.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) addresses these threats through preventing the occurrence of food chain crises. Prevention is carried out through a set of methods and approaches such as surveillance of animal diseases and plant pests, early detection of these threats, early warning, risk analysis, risk modelling, early action to prevent an event from transforming into an emergency, coordination at global, regional, and country levels, and communication. For each of these methods and approaches, FAO has developed and is still developing applied tools to be used by farmers, governments, experts, and organizations to prevent the occurrence of food chain emergencies.
Averting Risks to the Food Chain is a publication released by FAO in January 2017 representing a toolkit with various methods and tools to prevent animal and plant pests and diseases, including aquatic diseases and forest pests, and food safety incidents in various situations and at various levels.
It describes methods for monitoring of transboundary threats such as Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) which collects and sends information from remote locations to decision makers in good times, the Food Chain Crisis forecasting approach to predict food chain threats having a high impact on food and nutrition security and livelihoods, and the Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i) to provide timely and reliable information on global animal disease distribution and current threats at national, regional, and global levels.
The toolkit describes tools using new technologies for combatting transboundary threats such as Geographic Information System (GIS) to combine and cross-analyze a large amount of visual and numerical data and produce predictions of disease spread, a tool called elocust3 for recording and transmitting locust field observations during survey and control operations, risk modelling to predict Rift valley fever animal disease, a mobile application called EMA-i for real-time animal diseases reporting, and other new technology tools.
It also describes how to manage food chain threats before they cause an emergency such as contingency planning and simulation exercises, control methods for prevention, e.g. quarantine measures, vaccination, and hygiene measures. It also shows control methods to slow down epidemics such as zoning and information on regional movements of products/animals/plants, as well as integrated pest management examples such as environmentally sound control technologies and biological control.
The toolkit also shows how to support the capacity of countries and communities in preventing food chain emergencies through training on these tools, technical consultations, guidelines and handbooks, information systems, standard operational procedures, letters of agreements, policy technical support, and partnerships.
The publication is a compendium of 23 monthly FAO information sheets on food chain crisis prevention. More tools are being developed, to be published and shared with interested communities to protect the food chain.
FAO strives to ensure food security and increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises through targeted actions.
The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).