Climate change is a major disruptor of the global food system, changing the way food is produced, processed, stored and distributed. Extreme weather events, droughts and rising temperatures affect distribution patterns of pests and diseases and contribute to increased and new SPS risks.

Climate Change Week showcased how trade is closely linked to the effects of climate change on the world's food supply. As agro-climatic zones shift, new regions will face food deficits, requiring increased trade to meet demand. At the same time, unsafe trade can be a pathway for the spread of pests and diseases to new regions.

Experts noted that addressing the impact of climate change on animal health, plant health and food safety in a holistic way will require regulatory and systematic changes, the active involvement of a wide range of regulators and practitioners, as well as funding of those efforts.

“Whatever action we take, the solutions will have to be tailored to each region, country and sector, with a focus on supporting producers and regulators in developing countries,” said Jean-Marie Paugam, WTO Deputy Director-General, at the closing seminar on 6 May.

“The key to building long-term climate resilience, through risk management strategies, regulatory updates, awareness raising and other ways, is partnerships.”

Experts stressed that to ensure sustainable results, future SPS interventions should be aligned to One Health — an integrated, multidisciplinary approach prioritizing the health of humans, animals and the environment — and engage the governments of project beneficiary countries from the start. They also agreed that climate change reinforces the need to strengthen critical SPS functions in developing countries, such as monitoring and surveillance, and the ability to conduct risk assessments.

At the webinar held on 3 May, animal health experts warned that the emergence of zoonotic diseases, driven by climate change and trade in livestock, is becoming more frequent, and may lead to future pandemics. To prevent and tackle future outbreaks, strengthening veterinary services and national SPS capacities to undertake risk assessments is key.

Particular mention was made of the web-based early warning decision support tool developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which is supporting prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in East Africa through real-time monitoring, risk forecasting, mapping and assessment.

Climate change is also causing plant pests to spread to higher altitudes, such as the coffee berry borer in Colombia, participants heard at the webinar held on 4 May.

Plant health experts are sensitizing farmers to use biopesticides to target this pest, rather than chemical pesticides, which can lead to pest resistance, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and food safety concerns. Farmers receive SMS messages alerting them to the optimal time to spray biopesticides to maximize efficiency without harming the environment.

Climate change is also creating complexities in food safety and affecting all stages of the food system, from production to processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste recovery, according to food safety experts speaking at the webinar held on 5 May. One example is accelerated permafrost thawing releasing heavy metals into aquatic ecosystems, compromising aquatic life, freshwater supplies and crops like rice.

Discussions also covered small island developing states, which are hit particularly hard by the impact of climate change on food safety. In the Caribbean, the lack of data is a key concern. Most foodborne diseases in the region are unknown due to the absence of proper surveillance, with no epidemiological testing conducted to isolate the cause unless there is an outbreak.

Experts stressed that national governments need to fund data collection and surveillance to improve food safety in the long run. Donors could also invest in projects aimed at strengthening governance to keep up with changing food systems.

The STDF is a global partnership that supports developing countries to meet international standards and gain market access, in line with the WTO SPS Agreement. Established by the WTO, together with the FAO, OIE, World Bank Group and WHO, the STDF responds to evolving needs, drives inclusive trade and contributes to sustainable economic growth, food security and poverty reduction, in support of the United Nations' Global Goals.

See all four STDF webinar sessions here, as well as key takeaways captured as illustrations and speakers' presentations.




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