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The EU must strengthen its pandemic response workforce

30/06/2020

This Editorial was originally published to Euractiv on 29th June 2020.

The European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy released last Wednesday makes bold first steps towards recognising the value of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Europe’s pest management professionals trained in IPM understand better than anyone how it now should be implemented widely throughout European societies to promote public health.

The COVID-19 health crisis has been a pivotal time for the professionally trained pest managers of Europe, who have proven essential in maintaining hygiene in both public and private places across many European countries during lockdowns.

As professionals in pest management, we are trained in disinfection, the services provided by our industry during the crisis have helped guarantee continuity in the work of healthcare professionals in hospitals, as well as ensuring food production, storage and distribution and almost all other areas of commerce were not disturbed for the benefit of all European citizens.

European professional trained pest managers are also key in the aftermath of the pandemic. Our skillset and wide range of services will help prevent any additional disastrous consequences in respect of public health and any delay in the restoration of the normal functioning of society that could be caused by already visible increases in pest activity.

Many contributing factors leading from an impending economic downturn such as public and private buildings being left empty and redundant for long periods, reduced infrastructure investment in public hygiene coupled with the already well-known issues around climate change and unplanned urbanization create a perfect storm for pests to thrive.

Despite having approached this challenge with conviction, many national governments seemed to gloss over the extent to which essential sectors such as healthcare and logistics rely on other sectors to function.

In response to this vague situation, concerted efforts between CEPA (the association representing trained pest management professionals at European level) and its national members managed draw this issue to the attention of governments and gain confirmation that pest management must continue.

This scenario is indicative of the lack of awareness of the nature of the work of trained pest management professionals in Europe; this must and can change.

This lack of recognition is exacerbated by the fact that the pest management profession does not benefit from a European-wide professional qualification. This has implications for the development of this key sector, but also for people’s health and the environment.

Indeed, this leaves the room for harmful activities of unqualified service providers or improvised disinfection programmes, which could have been very detrimental in the context of this unprecedented crisis which required quick and efficient action in order to minimise its impact.

To change this situation, CEPA has been calling for the development of professional standards and qualification through a Memorandum of Understanding. We truly believe that an approach based on the principles and best practices of Integrated Pest Management respecting all applicable regulations is the best guarantee of an effective and professional outcome.

This would not only guarantee the effectiveness of the service, but is the approach that will properly protect citizens’ health, minimising the impact of pest management activity on the environment and biodiversity.

We call upon European decision-makers to formally acknowledge the key role of trained pest management professionals in implementing Integrated Pest Management throughout all sectors, supporting food security and public health while minimising the impact on the environment across Europe.

This call will not be heard unless it is supported by the sectors which professionalisation will benefit. For this reason, CEPA wants to encourage those sectors which rely on a healthy, pest-free environment to join our call, and to sign our Memorandum of Understanding to improve the way in which pest management is carried out across Europe, from farm to fork and beyond.

Henry Mott is the president of CEPA #TheGoodPestManager, the trade association representing professionally trained pest managers at European level.

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