Prof Leonard O’Garro is a plant pathologist whose work has been principally concerned with the use of science to treat or eradicate diseases that attack food crops in the region, and the development and adoption of biotechnology and biosafety protocols in CARICOM. He has had careers as a distinguished academic and a scientist who has ensured that his work is of direct value to the long-term sustainable development of the region, in the crucial area of food security.
Born in St Vincent, Leonard O’Garro entered the UWI, Cave Hill, as an undergraduate in 1979. He was awarded his PhD in biology in 1986, whereupon he joined the faculty of pure and applied sciences at Cave Hill. He was appointed Professor of Plant Pathology in 1999.
He left UWI in 2005 to become the United Nations Biosafety Coordinator managing the United Nations Environmental Programme project for the Development of National Biosafety Frameworks. He was responsible for the Caribbean region’s implementation in compliance with the Cartegena Protocol for Biosafety.
His work has directly affected all the countries of the OECS, by providing specialized training to create crop protection means and methodologies in those countries (and Barbados) for specialized or important crops including pepper, tomato, onion, yams, and papaya. He has also been key in designing the University of the West Indies’s biotechnology thrust for and on behalf of Caricom countries.
Prof O’Garro has been widely recognized for his work. He has received UNESCO Biotechnology and International Fellowships (1993, 1987-88), and a Leverhulme Fellowship (1993). In 2009, he was recognized as a Caribbean Icon of Science by the National Institute for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST, Trinidad & Tobago). He has also been a member of several high-level international panels on biotechnology policy and research for agencies including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UWI, and CARICOM, as well as several government panels on sugar, cotton, and intellectual property in Barbados.
The next major area of research Prof O’Garro is contemplating is the solutions to problems anticipated from climate change. He is presently the Senior International Consultant/ Adviser to the UWI on Biotechnology/Biosafety.