Daniel Elger, CABI's CEO, visits a mobile plant clinic in Jamaica

CABI has facilitated a webinar series which investigated the prospect for greater utilization of biopesticides for combating potentially devastating crop pests and diseases affecting livelihoods and food security in the Caribbean.

The webinars followed a visit to Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago last year by Dr Daniel Elger, CABI CEO, to strengthen strategic partnerships.

Dr Elger’s itinerary included productive dialogue with Ministries of Agriculture (MoAs) and other key stakeholders as well as visiting a PlantwisePlus plant clinic supporting smallholder farmers in Jamaica.

During the visit, a request was received for technical assistance to help CABI Member Countries in the region to increase the registration and availability of biopesticides for smallholder farmers.

Biopesticides provide a low risk and effective pest control alternative that deserve a simpler regulatory process for authorities and registrars alike. However, pesticide control boards and related authorities sometimes have insufficient information or capacity to introduce new processes for registering biopesticides.

The good news is that there are many international guidelines, tools, experts, regulatory models, and regional cooperation opportunities that can be utilized by countries to increase registration of these products.

Alternatives to chemical pesticides

In response to the request, four webinars were held this year from February to May to provide policy makers and regulatory officials from a wide range of Caribbean countries with information and resources for improving the registration of biopesticides in the Caribbean region.

The series covered a range of topics including introductory concepts, examples of successful adoption of biopesticides for critical pest control needs, effective biopesticide regulatory programmes, specific registration data and information requirements for biopesticide categories, and opportunities for easing the burden through regional cooperation. The webinar series finished by outlining a biopesticide registration roadmap for the Caribbean.

A strong CABI presence

A number of CABI experts contributed to the webinars. For example, Kirk Shirley, CABI’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, the Americas, chaired each webinar and gave an overview of CABI’s work involving biopesticides for sustainable pest management in the Caribbean and around the world.

While CABI’s Regional Representative in the Caribbean, Bob Ramnanan engaged with many of the participants and played an active role in the webinars. This included presenting CABI’s work using biological control agents in the Caribbean as well as Member Countries’ responses to a survey on the use of biopesticides.

Dr Emma Jenner, Strategic Planning and Operations Manager at CABI, gave an overview of the CABI BioProtection Portal including details of a business sustainability model to secure funding from private and public sectors.

As well as CABI staff, the series featured contributions from Dr Jason Sandahl, Owner of Ag Align Global and co-founder and Board Member of the Minor Use Foundation, Mr Luis Suguiyama, former Senior Pesticides Regulatory Manager at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Dr Kevin Rice, Director of Virginia Tech University’s Alson H. Smith Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

International efforts to harmonize regional biopesticide regulations

The webinar series highlighted how working in collaboration across the world, including the Caribbean, can help to address challenges moving forward. This includes making strides towards the development of a regional harmonized biopesticide regulatory framework for the Caribbean region.

Mr Suguiyama, for instance, spoke about international efforts to harmonize regional biopesticide regulations in Central America, South Africa, East Africa and South East Asia as well as data requirements for biopesticide categories including microbials.

Meanwhile, Dr Rice talked about the history of biopesticides and how they fit into Integrated Pest Management plans.

Ire Burgoa, International Program Specialist, USDA showcased the wider-collaboration narrative by presenting on the USDA/FAS – IICA Capacity Building Program on the Harmonization of Pesticide and Biopesticide Registration Systems and Residue Standards in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Tamara Morrison, Registrar, Pesticide Control Authority, Ministry of Health, Jamaica, and Trecia David, Registrar, Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, Ministry of Agriculture, Guyana, spoke about their experiences with biopesticide registration.

Supporting innovative low-risk tools for smallholder farmers

Mr Shirley said, “The global biopesticide market is growing very quickly in terms of use by farmers and manufacturing of these products, from the small-scale entrepreneurs to global agribusinesses.”

“Biopesticides can, and will increasingly across the world, provide a low risk, safe and effective pest control alternative or supplement to conventional pesticides, and the process for registering them for domestic use should reflect their low-risk profiles.”  

“We were happy to respond to the call from Member Countries to help them be better aware of the range of biopesticide and biological control options and have greater capacity to register and implement them as part of Integrated Pest Management plans.”

Additional information

Main image: Bob Ramnanan and Dr Daniel Elger during their visit to a plant clinic in Jamaica.

Relevant stories

‘CABI visit to Caribbean strengthens strategic partnerships to help safeguard food security and biodiversity.’

‘CABI highlights top 20 crop pests and diseases for possible prioritization in the Eastern Caribbean.’

‘CABI publishes first guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of the Caribbean.’

‘40th country Jamaica joins CABI BioProtection Portal.’

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