The explosive growth of tourism and international trade of agricultural products in recent decades has resulted in a great increase in the arrival in the Caribbean of harmful exotic plant pests and pathogens. Under the rules of the World Trade Organization, infested agricultural products cannot be rejected unless the receiving country can show that the pests or pathogens in the imported cargo do not already occur in the country. Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, countries are required to list the pests and pathogens within their borders and to provide this information to their trading partners. Thus each country is under pressure to know the pests in our countries and to quickly identify newly arrived pests and pathogens. However, it is permissable to exclude new pests and pathogens. Therefore, when a new pest or pathogen first arrives, it is very important to quickly detect and identify it and to take measures to prevent its establishment, to eradicate an incipient infestation, or failing to achieve eradication to mitigate the damage by the unwanted organism. Clearly we face daunting challenges to fulfill the technical requirements of international agreements with the WTO, US-DR-CAFTA; DRCARICOM and others. Therefore we must greatly enhance the development of the technical capacity to diagnose and identify pests and diseases promptly. The Dominican Republic has assembled the needed equipment, laboratories and trained technical personnel in order to build a Nation - Wide Diagnostic Network (SNDPE). Moreover, the Republic has set out to help form the international Caribbean Regional Diagnostic Network (CRDN) to connect with the United States, Puerto Rico, Haiti and eventually with other countries in the Caribbean. We believe that this collaborative effort to construct the CRDN will result in (1) a standardized and reliable diagnostics system, (2) prevention of the introduction of some new invasive species, (3) prompt identification of pests and diseases through the network, and (4) enhanced domestic and international cooperation, collaboration and communication. Some essential activities involved in constructing the CRDN include: (1) training sessions of local specialists to diagnose pests and diseases through the network, (2) acquisition of laboratory equipment and software, (3) image taking training sessions for local specialists, and (4) the development of standardized protocols. In the Dominican Republic our highest priority at this time is the formation and development of a National Diagnostic Operations Committee. The Operations Committee is working to establish rules and protocols to govern the work of all technicians and specialists that are part of the network.


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