Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu


Investments in agricultural research for development: Are we on the right track?



Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

19 October 2022

 (Mexico Room, 11:00 hours)


Good morning Fellow Scientists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,


1. Firstly, I wish to start by conveying my appreciation to all of you for making the time to participate today, either in person or virtually.

2. Today’s event is for you, for global scientists, whether from the public, private or civil society sectors.

3. We should respect scientists, scientific knowledge and data based solutions.

4. That is what I am determined to bring back to FAO, not only in FAO Headquarters, but in the wider FAO system.

5. I wish to thank Dr Magdalena Skipper, the Editor in Chief of “Nature” scientific journal, for moderating this event.

6. I am proud to say that previously when working as a senior manager in the local and central government in China, I published my last scientific paper as a cover story of “Nature”, together with my colleagues globally from 15 countries. That was July 11, 2011 and it was on the International Consortium on Potato Genome Sequencing.

Dear Colleagues,

7. First, I do not want to educate you with all the background information on how important agriculture research and development is for the transformation of agrifood systems.

8. However, one thing I wish to remind all scientists and experts, no matter whether you work for big companies or public institutions, please take your knowledge and experience and enter into dialogue with the politicians.

9. It is urgently needed.

10. For years and years I saw, not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world, scientists interacting with other scientists very intensively, even debating very effectively, but you didn’t cross borders so often, you never reached out to the other side of the group that has the solid power.

11. Also, the private sector. They protect IP or IPR, and keep within their circle.

12. Therefore there are three distinct rings. We need three rings, but you also need to discuss across the rings.

13. My second observation is that we need basic science for the long-term and applied basic science for the middle-term, but we also urgently need the pragmatic development science for the short-term.

14. Especially for most Member Nations of FAO, no matter whether they are developing or developed. For example, there is a simple question which is valid for all of us: how to improve the efficiency of fertilizer application?

15. You have a lot of solutions, but what is the pragmatic solution for each of the Members?

16. The answer is very complicated: it is an availability problem, it is an affordability problem, it is an accessibility problem.

17. It depends on the countries: some countries, even in Europe, face long-term availability problems.

18. They have the money, but do they have the capacity to produce nitrogen, phosphorous fertilizer? 

19. It is a huge opportunity, along with the challenges of course.

20. Third, how to work together at the global level in a holistic way.

21. At FAO, to strengthen that, I appointed the Chief Scientist, the first in the history of FAO, together with the first Chief Economist.

22. From social and natural science I encourage both Chiefs to talk and work together.

23. That is why the World Food Forum (WFF) is not only for the Chief Economist or the Chief Scientist, it is also for Civil Society.

24. I just had a meeting with high school kids, and with young kids during Junior World Food Day, which was held last Friday.

25. Because it is not only a matter for adults, we need to feed the younger leaves, we need the young green leaves to understand the current and future situation.

Dear Colleagues,

26. I wish you a good debate, and come ask FAO for concrete suggestions, ask your governments – and don’t forget about the Hand-In-Hand Initiative.

27. Governments have the solid power, but we have to advise them on how to change their business,

28. And international organizations to step out of their silos,

29. And the private sector to look beyond their own interests.

30. We need to encourage them all to have a more open and social responsibility, to work with all people: farmers, consumers, scientists, academia, civil society and NGOs.

31. Our world is becoming more and more a non-government oriented society in the digital world.

32. Together, we can bring about the change we want.

33. Thank you for your contributions today, for your support and your guidance.

34. I wish you a successful event.

35. Thank you.