Support to the International Plant Protection Convention

In terms of normative activities, we support the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), headquartered at FAO in Rome, to develop international standards and to create capacity in Member States in order to apply them. The IPPC is a multilateral treaty for cooperation in plant protection to secure action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products, and to promote appropriate measures for their control. It is governed by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, which adopts International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs).

The Convention had its beginnings over one hundred and twenty years ago with the agreement by twelve countries to establish regulatory measures for grapevines under the Phylloxera Convention. This led to the increasing recognition of the need to address other transboundary plant pests and enlist phytosanitary cooperation among all countries. Currently the IPPC has a membership of 170 countries.

Since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the early 1990s, the IPPC has played a prominent role in relation to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), encouraging international harmonization and elaborating international standards to help ensure that phytosanitary measures are not used as unjustified barriers to agricultural trade.

Our involvement has been through participation in a thorough revision of ISPM No. 3, "Code of Conduct for the Import and Release of Exotic Biological Control Agents" to update and broaden its scope. The use and transboundary shipment of sterile insects had so far been excluded from ISPM No. 3, because biological control agents had been defined as self-replicating organisms. Since the implementation of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has largely been dominated by the public sector, this did not represent a problem for the transboundary shipment of sterile insects. However, the lack of regulatory framework did discourage private investment in the production and shipment of sterile insects.

The revised ISPM No. 3 "Guidelines for the Export, Shipment, Import, and Release of Biological Control Agents and Other Beneficial Organisms" explicitly includes sterile insects as beneficial organisms in the revised standard to facilitate the application of SIT for Member States of the IPPC. It also includes official definitions for sterile insect: "an insect that as a result of an appropriate treatment is unable to produce viable offspring", and Sterile Insect Technique: "a method of pest control using area-wide inundative releases of sterile insects to reduce reproduction in a field population of the same species" ISPM No. 5 Glossary of Phytosanitary Terms.

Collaboration with IPPC also involved the joint organization of a meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome on "Status and Risk Assessment of the Use of Transgenic Arthropods in Plant Protection". The resulting proceedings of the meeting have been used by NAPPO (North American Plant Protection Organization) to develop NAPPO Regional Standard No. 27 on "Guidelines for Importation and Confined Field release of Transgenic Arthropods", which provides the basis for the rational development of the use of transgenic arthropods.

As members of the IPPC Technical Panel on Pest Free Areas and Systems Approaches for Fruit Flies, we have been involved in providing technical support and in funding and hosting in Vienna meetings of this fruit fly panel. This group of experts has drafted international standards, some of which have in the meantime gone through several rounds of country reviews and have been approved by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures. These include: ISPM No. 26 ) "Establishment of Pest Free Areas for Fruit Flies" (2006) and ISPM No. 30 "Establishment of Areas of Low Pest Prevalence for Fruit Flies (Tephritidae)" (2008). Draft ISPM on "Systems Approaches for Fruit Flies" (see some examples of operational systems approaches) under application and information related to them, and a draft annex to ISPM No. 26 on Trapping Procedures for Fruit Flies", which is based on the FAO/IAEA publication "Trapping guidelines for area-wide fruit fly programmes", both of which are at different stages of the review and approval process.

The immediate future work programme of the fruit fly panel includes the development of draft "guidelines for the confirmation of non-host status of fruit and vegetables to Tephritid fruit flies", a draft annex on "establishment of regulated areas upon outbreak detection in fruit fly pest free areas", and a draft annex on "suppression and eradication procedures for fruit flies".

Together with our colleagues from the Food and Environmental Subprogramme of the Joint FAO/IAEA Programme we assisted in the establishment of ISPM No. 18 "Guidelines for the Use of Irradiation as a Phytosanitary Measure", and we are currently supporting another IPPC panel: the Technical Panel on Phytosanitary Treatments, which has also met in Vienna and which is involved in developing post-harvest treatments, including fruit irradiation treatments for fruit flies. We have also supported IPPC in meetings dealing with the international recognition of pest free areas which are of relevance for fruit fly and other area-wide programmes, as well as in creating capacity in Member States to use the international standards in order to level the playing field in international agricultural trade. Most recently we organized and funded the "FAO/IAEA Regional Training Course on Pest Risk Analysis as Part of SIT Application" held in Amman, Jordan. Part of the course was based on the use of IPPC pest risk analysis training materials which are available on the International Phytosanitary Portal. Since these materials focus more on pest risk assessment and less on risk management, jointly developing complementary risk management training materials could be another area of collaboration for the Joint Programme and the IPPC Secretariat.