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Trade related animal and plant infectious disease risks (RAPID Trade)

Eco Services Group

Project publications

Pike, J., Bogich, T., Elwood, S., Finnoff, D.C. & Daszak, P. (2014) Economic optimization of a global strategy to address the pandemic threat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 18519-18523.

Schar, D. & Daszak, P. (2014) Ebola economics: the case for an upstream approach to disease emergence. EcoHealth, 11, 451-452.

Horan, R.D., Fenichel, E.P., Finnoff, D. & Wolf, C.W. (2015) Managing Dynamic Epidemiological Risks through Trade. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, 53, 192-207.

Castillo-Chavez, C., Curtiss, R., Daszak, P., Levin, S.A., Patterson-Lomba, O., Perrings, C., Poste, G. & Towers, S. (2015) Beyond Ebola: lessons to mitigate future pandemics. The Lancet Global Health, 3, e354.


Trade related animal and plant infectious disease risks (RAPID Trade)

The spread of infectious diseases of both domesticated and wild animals and plants are among the consequences of the growth in world trade. Livestock diseases historically spread through trade include, for example, Rinderpest, Foot and Mouth Disease, H9N2 Avian influenza, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, Swine Fever and many others. Plant diseases include Phytophthora ramorum, Dutch elm disease, ash dieback, and box blight. There is long-standing strongly positive relationship between the opening of new markets and the introduction of new species, and between the growth in trade volumes and the probability that introduced species will establish and spread. The volume and direction of trade are, in fact, good empirical predictors of which introduced species are the most likely sources of diseases of wildlife, including zoonoses. Moreover, even where disease has led to the prohibition of trade in particular animals or animal products, e.g. the ban on Russian pigs and pig products caused by the presence of African swine flu in Russia, trade in other commodities remains a source of risk if it involves infected containers or trade vehicles. What is new is the volume and complexity of trade links.

Since 1950, world GDP has increased by a factor of 8.7. In the same period the volume of world merchandise exports has increased by a factor of 30. The proportion of global output that is traded internationally has been rising rapidly, and continues to rise. Indeed, this is the defining feature of globalization—the closer integration of the world economy. The regional balance of exports is also changing. Exports are growing more rapidly in the emerging market and developing economies than they are in the developed economies, and the trend is accelerating. Current projections are that by the end of 2013, developed country exports will have grown by around 10 per cent since 2010. Emerging market and developing country exports are expected to increase by half as much again in the same period. The trend affects both new diseases and old. The number of new plant fungal, bacterial and viral diseases appearing in Europe more than quadrupled during the 20th century. Forestry was particularly severely affected by the opening up of East Asian markets in forest products. At the same time, the growth of trade with emerging market and developing economies has increased the likelihood of reinfection from existing reservoirs. Many animal diseases, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, fall into this category.

The management of trade related animal and plant disease risks is currently addressed through the terms of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, which implements the disease-related trade exceptions allowed under Article 20 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The SPS Agreement is supported by three standard setting bodies: the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), the Office Internationale des Épizooties or World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). Each is aimed at safeguarding world trade by publishing health standards for international trade in, respectively food and food products, animals and animal products, and cultivated and wild plants. The SPS Agreement requires that trade interventions to protect animal and plant health be based on standards set by these organizations, and should be informed by a scientific assessment of the risks. The risk assessment methodology developed by the OIE, for example, is intended to establish the likelihood of the introduction, establishment and spread of disease within the territory of an importing country, along with an assessment of the biological and economic consequences of the disease. It involves four steps. A ‘release assessment’ estimates the likelihood that an imported commodity is infected. An ‘exposure assessment’ estimates the likelihood that susceptible animals will be exposed to the disease. A ‘consequence assessment’ estimates the potential consequences of exposure and the likelihood of those consequences occurring. These three assessments are then combined to generate a risk estimate. In the vast majority of cases these assessments are based not on data but on expert opinion.

Existing risk assessments accordingly focus on the risks posed by particular pathogens transmitted via trade-goods on particular routes. They do not focus on the disease risks associated with trading decisions—the importer’s decision about what to trade with whom. Infectious diseases of both plants and animals are spread through contact between susceptible and infected individuals. This in turn depends on choices people make to bring individual animals or plants into contact. There is some concern that existing risk assessments and the risk management strategies they inform may fail to capture the true risks of trade. In some instances the neglect of trade means that risks are underestimated. In others, the risks of either particular diseases or particular commodities may be overestimated.

Recent work on infectious diseases of humans has explored the epidemiological implications of decisions about how much contact to make and with whom. It has shown that infectious disease risks are determined endogenously as a function of the relative costs and benefits of illness and contact. RAPID Trade will evaluate the disease risks associated with imports of selected animals and animal products, and selected plants and plant products to the UK and the USA. We will focus on the factors informing trade decisions, including relative prices, taxes and import duties, along with assessment, inspection and interception strategies. We will estimate the national and global risks resulting from risk management at three scales: the scale of the importer; the national scale and the international scale. Since existing multilateral agreements limit the scope for international cooperation in the management of trade-related animal and plant diseases, most risk assessments and most risk management take place at the national scale. We will, however, evaluate the global risk in each case (the risk that results from the interdependency of national risks due to, e.g., trade diversion), and the scope for risk mitigation through international cooperation. Through collaboration with US APHIS and UK FERA we will access data on selected animal and plant diseases with which to calibrate and validate endogenous disease risk models. The models will then be used to test hypotheses about the impact of particular economic risk factors, and to simulate the impact of alternative risk management strategies at each scale.

Project personnel

The research team comprises mathematicians, epidemiologists, ecologists and resource economists.

Arizona State University: C.Perrings (PI), B. Morin

University of California Davis: M. Springborn

Georgia State University: G. Chowell-Puente

Michigan State University: R. Horan

Ecohealth Alliance: P. Daszak

University of Wyoming: D. Finnoff

Yale University: E. Fenichel

University of York: P. White (PI), J. Touza, J. Timmis

University of Sterling: A. Kleczkowski

FERA: G. Jones, A. MacLeod

Project funding

RAPID Trade is funded by NSF grant 1414374 as part of the joint NSF-NIH-USDA Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program, and by UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant BB/M008894/1..