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Guyana wants anti-microbial resistance put on international agenda

Left to Right: Guyana’s Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy; IICA’s Head of Agricultural Health and Food Safety and Mr. Gustavo Bretas of the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO)office in Suriname

Guyana plans to ask the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom)to start taking steps to place the use of antibiotic resistance on the international agenda to ensure food security and human safety.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told a session on Antimicrobials at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA2014) that he would ask the agricultural ministerial meeting of the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to place the issue on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda ahead of next year’s United Nations meeting.

He recommended that an Inter-Governmental Panel be established the issue of anti-microbial resistance to ensure sustainable development. “We refuse to do so now and we place the human race and our desire for ending hunger in this region, reducing poverty in this region by 2025, at risk,” said the Agriculture Minister.

Ramsammy wants Caricom to take the lead in stimulating international discussion on how to address the issue of extensive, intensive and injudicious use of antimicrobials.

He observed that at least 50 percent of antibiotics are used in agriculture to, for instance, treat poultry –a major source of meat protein. At the same time, the former Health Minister noted that the production of new antibiotics has stagnated over the last 50 years.

Mr. Gustavo Bretas of the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO)office in Suriname also told the session on Anti- Microbial Resistance (AMR) noted that that the larger the scale of farming the greater the more necessary it becomes to use antibiotics, chemicals and other substances.  He believed that the Caribbean’s decision to push family farming would help reduce the use such items. “There is an enormous opportunity for small countries to work with small-scale farming and having high quality products using as little as possible and placing their products in a niche in the market that allows you to have more value added to every unit of produce,” he said.

CWA 2014 is being held under the theme “Transforming Caribbean Agriculture through Family Farming” in line with the United Nations designation of 2014 as the “Year of International Farming.”

Presenters highlighted the importance of regulating the use and application of antibiotics and other chemicals through tougher laws and regulations to reduce side-effects. Bretas said Latin America was faced with an “enormous gap” in microbiology because there was no proper laboratory in that area.  He said that the World Health Organisation and PAHO were working “very hard to build up a surveillance network.” “It is advancing but I don’t think it’s advancing fast enough. We need to have a much proper network of surveillance of anti microbial resistance,” he added.

The Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is among several organizations that have helped organize CWA 2014. The others are the Surinamese government, CARDI, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), Caribbean Agri-Business Association (CABA) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).