Do not forget Plant Health in the One Health approach says IITA scientist
The One Health approach, which looks at the interconnectedness between human, animal, and environmental health, should also emphasize plant health, says IITA’s plant health pathologist for the Eastern Africa hub, George Mahuku.
Speaking at a seminar at IITA-Tanzania on 3 November, Mahuku said, “There is an urgent need to recognize the interconnection between plant health and the other major concepts under the One Health concept.”
Mahuku noted that 40% of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases; this amounts to trade losses of US$220 billion in agricultural products annually. Climate change also impacts plant health leading to a reduction in the quality and quantity of crops.
Food safety and One Health
During the seminar, Mahuku used aflatoxin contamination to illustrate the importance of including plant health under One Health.
Aflatoxin is caused by Aspergillus flavus, a fungus that lives in the soil and attacks crops while in the field and in storage. It affects both human and animal health and is impacted by environmental health.
According to statistics from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 billion people globally are chronically exposed to harmful aflatoxins through food intake, who are either unaware or aware but without alternative options.
Aflatoxins also have a negative economic impact on agriculture through reduced trade of crops contaminated with aflatoxins and on livestock production such as reduced milk and egg production and poor growth of animals.
Mahuku said a comprehensive solution to the aflatoxin problem calls for collaboration across scientific disciplines and leveraging shared knowledge, addressing social and cultural issues related to agriculture, animal and human health, and leveraging advances made in biotechnology and medicine.
Improved plant health can benefit human health in various ways, including increased food security, better nutrition, and reduced pesticides.
According to the Center for Disease Control, One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—to achieve optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.