Many small farms growing complexes of crops and animals mainly for local consumption, and a few major farms, growing mainly plantation crops for export, characterize agriculture in the Caribbean. Throughout the region, agricultural production has been falling. There is an urgent need for the application of technology, especially in terms of crop improvement. Recently, there is a quiet and growing trend towards using biotechnology to augment the more traditional breeding methods to increase crop yields. Some of the crops being enhanced include hot pepper, anthuriums, papaya, cotton, medicinal plants and even sugarcane by marker-assisted breeding and by transformation. These developments have more-or-less been happening in isolation with Cuba being the most advanced and Haiti the least. Associated with these developments has been an increasing trend towards regional networking with several attempts starting in 1990 and continuing to present. There is at the moment no regulatory/policy biotechnology or biosafety framework in the region although several Caribbean countries (15) are developing regulatory frameworks with the assistance of UNEP/GEF for eventual signing of the CBD Cartagena protocol. Several national and regional bodies e.g. IICA, FAO, CARDI, UWI, ID1AF, and specialists in several Caribbean countries are now joining forces to establish a regional agenda in biotechnology and a Consultative Group for AgroBiotechnology in the Caribbean (CGABC) whose first order of business will be to develop a regional biosafety framework and establish regional projects in agrobiotechnology. The significance of these developments will be discussed.


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