© 2020, International Society for Plant Pathology and Springer Nature B.V. In this opinion piece, we highlight that trade barriers established during COVID-19 as “fire lines” to prevent cross-border transmission of the pandemic could become “fault lines” that demolish the global food system. We review restrictions on both international agricultural exports and imports, especially unilateral border controls such as import refusals and alerts, in previous epidemics and arising with two novel features amid COVID-19. Institutional causes to pervasive trade barriers in epidemics that are embedded in the WHO-WTO coordination scheme have been discussed. In the meantime, discussions on potential economic outcomes and policy recommendations have been provided.