U.N.’s ‘One Health’ approach aims to unite against zoonotic diseases

On Monday, March 27, United Nations heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.N.-backed World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) came together to prioritize a holistic One Health approach to the well-being of animals, humans, and the environment.

According to the report, global health emergencies such as COVID-19 and Ebola have heightened the reality and threat of “disease spillover between animals and humans, loss of biodiversity and climate change.” The ongoing Avian flu is also on the radar, though not yet crossing into a human epidemic.

By advocating a One Health approach and unifying international and national policy, scientific knowledge bases, and pandemic preparation, countries will be united in development to prevent health threats at the source, with close attention paid to zoonotic diseases.”

The FAO, UNEP, WHO, and WOAH urged all countries and key stakeholders to “collaborate and translate the One Health approach into policy action” and adopt the One Health seven-point call to action.

Biotech can curb health risks

The relationship between animals and the environment has compounded human health threats, with climate change adding to the spread of infectious diseases.

A study by Nature, as Bio.News has reported, details how climate change aggravates “over half of known human pathogenic diseases.” The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) issue brief breaks down the necessity of innovation in animal biotechnology, including birds and livestock that are resistant to disease-causing bacteria, as well as gene-edited crops that can withstand disease and climate change.

However, these innovations require regulatory approval that can be lengthy and delay release. A revised regulatory approval pathway is necessary. The issue brief states, “BIO is calling on the White House to provide leadership to FDA and USDA in establishing an improved, coordinated framework for oversight of animal biotechnology that is efficient, transparent, predictable, and risk proportionate.”

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