Food strategy and a Caribbean perspective

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Recent extra regional developments, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic together with the Russia/ Ukraine conflict have forced our region to come full face with the issue of developing a regional food strategy.

The recent initiatives and plans for expanded production within our region of staples such as wheat, rice, sugar are very well intentioned and primarily involve Guyana lands. There is an urgent need to have these plans framed within the context of a regional food strategy.

Essentially such a strategy would entail a clear focus on identifying the specifics of domestic/ regional production, the existing supply chains and how proposals will impact on regional food production.

There is also an imperative to disaggregate as far as possible the value of specific initiatives to be undertaken by each participating state or entity in the overall regional plan.

Additionally, there must be realistic quantification and dollar estimates for three key elements of the plan: • Required investment on nec essary technology to realise the increased production targets.

• The proposed food-spend within the regional public sector on regionally produced food or food certified to regionally agreed standards.

• A policy framework within which regional producers will be encouraged to produce more food that is compliant with certified and/or the agreed standards within the plan.

It is against this background that immediate consideration be given to the development of policy related to genetic technology.

Science has provided opportunities to engineer and/or develop biological organisms, crops and/or livestock including birds/fish and their products to deal with some of the consequences brought on by pollution, climate change as well as various other dysfunctional human interventions.

Technologies would entail both gene editing in which scientists change plant or animal’s DNA or in genetic modification where genetic material from any organism may be added or substituted wholly or partially into the DNA.

In both these instances there are huge implications in global trading not the least of which involve cross-border disputes some of which have already begun to impact in other jurisdictions.

The region is already lagging in addressing these issues. I am suggesting that we should do so now or risk further marginalisation of our people.

Samuel B Howard