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


Opening Session: The transformative power of science - Are we doing enough to harness the potential of science and innovation to achieve the SDGs?

Opening Remarks


Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General 

19 October 2022

 (Plenary Hall, 14:00 hours)




Fellow Scientists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. Welcome to the first ever FAO Science and Innovation Forum!

2. This Forum is the recognition of the critical importance of harnessing science, technology and innovation for the transformation of our global agrifood systems.

3. Our objective is to explore the major scientific developments and to debate the opportunities and solutions they present.

4. It is a platform, together with the Global Youth Forum and the Hand-in-Hand Initiative Forum – which are the three pillars of the World Food Forum- for rich debate to exchange diverse perspectives based on science and innovation, and to come up with innovation solutions and concrete actions to be taken.

5. It provides a space for dialogue on the opportunities and risks associated with technologies and innovations,

6. And will facilitate the adoption of a holistic, coordinated and coherent approach for the transformation needed.

7. This Forum will also build on the momentum of the new FAO Science and Innovation Strategy, and promote action for its effective implementation across all our work, across the whole FAO system, to the benefit of each of our 194 Members.

8. As a former Chief Scientist, and having spent the majority of my career as a humble technical expert, I am so glad to welcome colleagues from across the UN system, and the public, private, academic and civil society sectors, and beyond,

9. And I am pleased for this opportunity to collectively focus on how science can contribute and provide innovative solutions to achieve the SDGs, leaving no one behind.

Dear Colleagues,

10. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragilities in our agrifood systems and the inequalities in our societies, driving further increases in world hunger and severe food insecurity.

11. Up to 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021, an increase of 150 million since the outbreak of the pandemic.

12. We need to take immediate action to reverse this unacceptable trend!

13. Science and innovation provide the foundations for evidence-based decision-making for these actions, both in the short term and long term.

14. The UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, and the pre-Summit held at FAO HQ in July 2021, affirmed the need to invest in science and innovation to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.

15. We are witnessing a revolution in science and technology that is moving at an incredible speed.

16. And we need ensure we are not left behind, no matter what our position is.

17. For example, genetic improvement of crops and livestock, innovations in breeding methods and gene editing technologies offer significant potentials to develop crop tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and resistance to pests and diseases.

18. And agri-bioscience plays an important role in improving the nutritive value of diets through tools such as crop biotechnologies, breeding for healthy traits in animals, and applications of bacteria and fungi in agrifood systems.

19. Technology and innovations in remote sensing and satellite information, for example, offer strategic opportunities to provide early warning to governments, farmers and other value chain actors to help them better adapt to threats and crisis.

20. Data science is changing the way policymakers, agricultural professionals and farmers make decisions.

21. For example, a mobile phone is not just a phone, it is a new and effective farming tool in the hands of modern farmers.

22. Increasing access to data and the professional skills needed for the effective use of this data will establish a global mindset for trustworthy data science to drive human progress.

23. We need to invest more in agricultural research for development, which has remained extremely low, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

24. For every USD 100 of agricultural GDP, only between 34 and 72 cents are being spent on agricultural research and development.

25. We must upgrade technological infrastructure, increase levels of literacy and skills, improve access to services, reduce the costs of technology and strengthen regulatory frameworks to ensure that smallholder farmers benefit from the use of appropriate technologies and innovations.

26. We must avoid the risk of widening the technology divide.

27. To do this we need to change policies and business models.

28. Scientific experts must raise public awareness on the potential benefits, risks and unintended consequences of science, technology and innovation.

29. We need a dialogue. We need to step out of our silos and to actively dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.

30. At FAO, we have implemented a series of fundamental transformative actions to drive this change.

31. The FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 focuses on the transformation to more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems,

32. We need to produce more with less, with more quantity, higher quality and more food diversity, but with less inputs and less impacts on the environment – and the only solution is science and innovation, enabling policies and increased investment – otherwise it remains only a slogan!

33. To achieve the collective goal of the 4 betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.

Dear Friends,

34. To reach impact at scale, we must develop new and transformative partnerships, including with the private sector and civil society.

35. Together, we can and must do more to place science firmly at the center of our decisions and actions.

36. I look forward to a productive Science and Innovation Forum 2022,

37. I will keep holding this Forum every year to provide a platform for discussions leading to innovative solutions for effective action!

38. Science and innovation is not only for personal curiosity of scientist, but science and innovation will change the livelihoods and lives of all of us, and will change the horizontal line and skyline of this planet.

39. Thank you.