Biotechnology, embraces both life sciences and engineering, and has been used for centuries to produce food and to solve health and environmental problems. It is widely accepted that modern advances in biotechnology hold great promise for addressing key challenges in agriculture, human health and the environment. However, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries lack the resources to make the investments needed in research and product and process development and innovation to harness biotechnology for sustainable social and economic development and wealth creation. Biotechnology when exploited appropriately can improve the collective welfare of the population. ACP countries must act now to avoid being left behind in yet another technological revolution. Therefore, ACP experts are calling on governments in the ACP region to invest more in science and technology and more specifically biotechnology if the region is to be assured of a better future.
At the 4th Advisory Committee Meeting on Science and Technology for ACP Agricultural and Rural Development (Wageningen, November 2005) members noted that: The ACP region is being challenged to deliver quality tertiary education in agriculture that responds to the needs of students, society and the economy in an environment where resources - human, capital and physical infrastructure are limited and tertiary education in agriculture is not high on government priorities. Young people were not pursuing tertiary level training in agriculture in ACP regions for a number of reasons including the lack of incentives, professional recognition, government support and adequate science and technology options for removing the drudgery associated with agriculture. ACP universities need to improve the quality of training and relevance of curriculum and provide experiential learning attachments to respond to the concerns from employers about the inability of graduates to meet the demands of the industry and the high unemployment faced by graduates on completion of the degree programmes CTA convened a meeting from May 16 - 19, 2006 of ACP and EU experts who deliberated on these issues. The experts examined the status and importance of improving tertiary education for transforming the agricultural sector in the ACP region. They identified strategies for improving the quality and relevance of tertiary education and how this information could be brought to the attention of national, regional and international policy makers to mobilize resources and support. The experts drafted an ACP policy brief to raise awareness of the need to improve tertiary education in agriculture in ACP countries. The draft will be widely circulated among peers prior to finalization and approval at the 5th meeting of the Advisory Committee on S&T for ACP Agricultural and Rural Cooperation which will take place in November 2006. (see workshop programme).
ACP Governments are encouraged to put mechanisms in place that will promote the collection, characterisation and conservation of biological resources and facilitate exploration of new food and industrial product opportunities so that indigenous resources are not over exploited and indigenous people do not lose access to their traditional livelihoods.