Date of Birth: 31st May 1958
BIOSAFETY: the safe handling of infectious agents or modified genetic materials that can adversely impact human, animal, plant, or environmental health
CARTAGENA PROTOCOL ON BIOSAFETY: an international agreement, adopted in 2000, which seeks to protect humans and the environment from potential risks arising from the trade in living organisms that have been genetically modified
PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY: techniques that use science to modify plants in order to produce desirable qualities such as high yields, improved nutritional value, and/or more vivid colours
PLANT PATHOLOGY: the study of plant diseases
Leonard O’Garro is the first graduate from the UWI Cave Hill Campus to complete a PhD degree at that campus.
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Professor Leonard O’Garro is a coordinator of the United Nations Global Biosafety Programme. A former professor of plant pathology at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Barbados, he did extensive research to reduce the spread of diseases affecting Caribbean agricultural crops. He trained many UWI graduates and led the effort to establish UWI as a centre for plant pathology research in the region.
Leonard Wellington O’Garro was born on 31st May, 1958 in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As a student, he played sports, painted and did well academically. He first studied history but later decided to study science instead. In 1982, he completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biology and Chemistry at UWI, Cave Hill, Barbados. For his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), he did research on tomato “wilting disease,” a fungal disease that kills the plants or prevents them from bearing.
In 1988, Dr O’Garro began lecturing in biology at UWI. During this time, he secured several research grants from leading regional and international institutions, which were used by his students. In 1993, he discovered the agent that causes onion blast disease, which severely affected the onion industry in Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis. His work promoted the development of disease control methods as well as research into new disease-resistant varieties of the crop. He also helped address the “rainy season” disease that infects pepper and tomato crops in the Eastern Caribbean, and developed disease control programmes for anthuriums and yams in Dominica and Barbados, and papaya in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Dr O’Garro was promoted to Professor of Plant Pathology in 1999. He conducted many workshops on plant biotechnology and plant pathology and served as the team leader of the UWI biotechnology programme.
Professor O’Garro served on the National Committee on Biotechnology and Biosafety in Barbados, the United Nations Compliance Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, editorial boards of several international science journals, and numerous boards of government agencies overseeing agriculture and science and technology. In 2005, he joined the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one of its global coordinators of a programme to oversee the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. He also assisted Caribbean countries with this programme, through the development and implementation of national biosafety frameworks. He is currently charged with the responsibility of developing the UWI Biotechnology Institute for the Caribbean.
Professor Leonard O’Garro advises students, “If you have a keen interest in science, you should pursue it, seizing initiatives and going beyond the call of duty to make a worthwhile contribution.” He believes that, “Children should pursue training in the field that they love best.”