Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Ms. Debra Turner

Organization: FAO
Country: Italy
I am working on:

Promoting sustainable soil management (SSM) and the sustainable management and use of plant nutrients through policy guidance tools and on-the-ground activities in farmer field schools (FFS)

Debra Turner is an Agricultural Officer with the Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

She has worked on topics related to soils and plant nutrients for 15 years, a major part of that time in field-related activities with the University of Melbourne researching nitrogen dynamics in agricultural soils in Australia and China. This included measuring and modeling emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide and other oxides of nitrogen from soils to the atmosphere, predominantly in light of climate change and estimating national greenhouse gas inventories.

After leaving Australia in 2012, she worked for the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) on various CGIAR programmes and ICARDA projects in her capacity as a soil expert before joining FAO in 2015.

Her role in FAO supports the AGP Ecosystem Management Team (AGPME) in providing technical support and guidance to countries for maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services as essential components of sustainable farming systems, particularly in regards to nutrient management.

She has a PhD degree in soils, and a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, both from the University of Melbourne.

This member contributed to:

    • Dear Forum members and contributors to the online consultation,

      Thank you for all for the contributions and feedback over the course of this consultation to review and revise the International Code of Conduct for the Use and Management of Fertilizers.

      Feedback and comments were received from over 50 contributions to the exchange. Contributors from a broad geographic perspective included representatives of member countries, academia, NGOs, research institutions, civil society, fertilizer industry associations and companies. The full proceedings of the consultation are available here on the forum webpage.

      In summary, there was consensus that a Fertilizer Code of Conduct is timely and needed given the importance of nutrient management from a global food security perspective, the need to prevent the conversion of natural lands to agricultural uses and from land degradation, and to address potential negative impacts of fertilizers.

      It was generally agreed that the Fertilizer Code addressed all aspects related to optimizing benefits and minimizing risks of fertilizer use and management. However, there were some comments suggesting that the Fertilizer Code was too focused on the benefits of fertilizers rather than their negative impacts on the environment and animal and human health, and thus could be seen to be promoting the use of fertilizers and the interests of the fertilizer industry. On the other hand, there were a number of comments suggesting that the Fertilizer Code was biased towards highlighting the negative effects of fertilizers and not promoting the benefits of fertilizers sufficiently. The development of the Fertilizer Code, subject to this review, was assisted by a technical OEWG with expert representation from member countries, fertilizer industry and interested NGOs. Broad agreement was reached amongst the OEWG in regard to balancing benefits and risks of fertilizer use, thus any suggestions to change the Code in terms of further highlighting either the benefits or negative impacts of fertilizers are well-noted and recorded, however no significant changes will be made to the text in this regard.

      There were some comments regarding what was missing from the Fertilizer Code, particularly specific items such as liming agents and vermicomposts, or strategies to manage fertilizer use at the field level. Where appropriate specific items will be included as examples. General strategies for managing plant nutrition are certainly referred to within the text, however it is beyond the scope of the Fertilizer Code to include specific strategies and recommendations for the use of fertilizers, nor specific policies or allowable limits on contaminants. Such information exists and should be collated into a supporting toolkit or knowledge hub containing examples, guidelines and other materials to help formulate fertilizer management policies and assist in making decisions for specific fertilizer management practices.

      Within the feedback and comments, there were also many suggestions for ways to refine the document. Where appropriate such suggestions will be incorporated, however no large changes or alterations from the original text, tone and sentiment of the document will be made at this point as this had been previously agreed by the OEWG. The feedback however is documented for the record and can be used for future refinements of the Fertilizer Code, or for reference by member countries who will adopt the Code.

      There were a number of comments, a significant number of which were from the fertilizer industry associations and representatives, that the Fertilizer Code was developed in too short a time frame. It was agreed by the OEWG that this initiative is urgently needed by many countries to support governments to manage the multiple aspects along the fertilizer supply chain including the regulation, quality, proper handling and proper use of fertilizers, as well as minimizing and reducing the negative impacts of fertilizers. This sentiment was also supported by the majority of the GSP Plenary. It was also highlighted by many member countries that they urgently require such a Code of Conduct related to fertilizers, and as such strongly supported its rapid adoption.

      As a result of this consultation, a revised version of the Fertilizer Code of Conduct will be presented to COAG 2018 with the suggestion that it be adopted and that a review of the Code occur in 4 years’ time, thus allowing the assessment of the usefulness of the application of the code, further stakeholder engagement and buy in, and subsequent refinement. A report as such be would be presented to COAG in 2022.

      Again, many thanks for all your support in assisting the development of such an important tool to help address the challenge of managing fertilizers to address food security and nutrition, while preserving the environment.


      Debra, Gary, Robert, Ronald and Zineb

    • Dear Mr Isingoma,

      Thank you for your comments and the positive response to the proposed Fertilizer Code of Conduct, particularly in relation to its function in helping rural people dependant on agriculture. Regarding your comment on formulating quantitative topics on fertilizer applications within the document, the Fertilizer Code itself will not provide recommendations as such. To support governments and institutions to implement the Fertilizer Code, we intend to develop a toolkit of examples, guidelines and other materials to help formulate fertilizer management policies and assist in making decisions for specific fertilizer management practices. Thank you for highlighting this issue.

      Dear Prof. Minggang Xu,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to our request for comments on the Fertilizer Code of Conduct. Regarding combining chemical fertilizers with manure to increase fertilizer use efficiency, we had hoped to convey this concept by highlighting and advocating for Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practices within the Code. We will certainly look at the current text in the document to ensure that the message is clear. To support governments and institutions to implement the Fertilizer Code, we intend to develop a toolkit of examples, guidelines and other materials to help formulate fertilizer management policies and assist in making decisions for specific fertilizer management practices.

      Dear Mr. Chinasa Ikelu,

      Thank you for your helpful comments towards improving the Fertilizer Code of Conduct, particularly in addressing the issue of how to use technology to reach rural farmers in hard-to-reach areas. Thank you also for pointing out some areas with repetitions and redundancies, particularly in Section 8. We will certainly consider your comments when we are refining the document.

      Dear Mr Edson Cagape,

      Indeed, our intention with the Fertilizer Code of Conduct, along with many other initiatives in FAO, is to help preserve the environment and its biodiversity while promoting sustainable agriculture.

      And, thank you for your second post highlighting your concern for, and the importance of, the health and safety aspects of fertilizers.

      Dear Dr. Adalberto Benavides-Mendoza,

      Your positive comments regarding the necessity of a Fertilizer Code of Conduct at this moment are indeed encouraging. Your comments provided within the text of the document will be considered when revising the current draft. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to its development.

      Dear Mr. Alejandro Silva,

      Your comments on the Fertilizer Code of Conduct are gratefully received.

      Regarding the ‘how to do’. Again, we reiterate that we intend to support the Code with a toolkit of good policy and fertilizer management guidelines and examples which will certainly provide more specific guidance to policy makers, the fertilizer industry, advisory services and farmers on ‘how to do’.

      Regarding the monitoring aspect, we will certainly take on board your comments as well as those of others to help improve the monitoring chapter of the Code.

      Your point about integrating Sections 3 and 4 will also be considered, or alternatively to adjust these two sections so that there is clearer distinctions between the two.

      Dear Ms Bak,

      Thank you for taking the time to review the Fertilizer Code of Conduct and for your comments regarding the relevance of addressing potential impacts on human rights such as the right to adequate food and health, and that certain groups such as children, pregnant women and consumers could be subject to elevated risks associated with fertilizer use and management. We will certainly consider your comments and refer to the UN Special Procedures to help improve the Fertilizer Code of Conduct where appropriate and apt.

      Dear Mr Carl Wahl,

      Your comments on how to improve the Fertilizer Code of Conduct are indeed much appreciated, particularly concerning strengthening the point or topic of soil conditions that affect fertilizer applications, e.g. acidity and alkalinity and the use of soil conditioning agents such as lime. This point has also been raised by others and will be considered in the draft revision or addressed accordingly.

      In addition, your recommendation to produce a simplified Code specific to iNGOs is also noted.

      Dear Ms Audrey Pomier Flobinus,

      Thank you for your positive comments regarding the benefits and use of the Fertilizer Code of Conduct and its potential to harmonize agricultural practices regarding the safety of products and fair market for all farmers, as well as in providing reassurance to the world population that agricultural practices are conscious of the environment and human health.

      Dear Mr Mykola Miroshnychenko,

      Thank you for your specific comments regarding the definition of fertilizer, and on adding an extra article to Section 3.5. Your suggestions will be taken into consideration when revising the draft Fertilizer Code of Conduct.

      Dear Dr Deren Chu,

      In your capacity as an expert on standards for fertilizer analysis techniques your comments regarding this topic are much appreciated. We will certainly follow your advice and look into the existing ISO standards.

      Thank you also for your encouraging words highlighting that in China, multiple government institutions and ministries could benefit from this code as well as the end users, i.e. farmers.

      Dear Ms Jaana Kaipainen,

      Thank you very much for kindly contributing to improving the Fertilizer Code of Conduct with your specific recommendations and comments within the document, particularly regarding some of the terms and definitions and on other potential sources of contaminants in fertilizer products, namely organic substances, micro- and nanoplastics. These and other suggestions will be certainly be considered in the revision of the Fertilizer Code.

      Dear Dr Robert Norton,

      Thank you for your affirmation that the Fertilizer Code of Conduct is very important. Indeed, the issue of recycling nutrients and developing circular economies is a big challenge due to the temporal and spatial separation of where and when food is produced and consumed. However, there is an effort in a number of countries and regions to recycle nutrients from urban waste. In agricultural settings, there are also many examples and further opportunities to recycle nutrients at various scales. Therefore, we have included recycling nutrients within the Code along with the use of mineral fertilizers. When we give examples of certain nutrient recycling practices, we do not intend to suggest that they will provide all nutrients and replace mineral fertilizers, but rather that they be used where appropriate. Our intention is to support the advocacy and use of these techniques with technical materials and policy guidelines for assistance in implementation of the Code, and that are based on scientifically sound evidence.

      Dear Ms. Madeleine Kaufmann,

      Thank you for your contributions on behalf of you and your colleagues at the Federal Office for Agriculture Switzerland. Your inputs and comments will be indeed be helpful for revising the Fertilizer Code of Conduct as well as in providing further comments to the Committee on Agriculture in October when the Code will be presented to FAO member countries.

    • Dear Rob Blakemore,

      Thanks for your contribution. Indeed, there are a lot of nutrients going to waste and reuse and recycling should be high on the global agenda. We did hope to highlight this in the Fertilizer Code, however perhaps it could be strengthened? We will certainly consider adding vermicomposting to the revised draft along with other suggestions we receive in regards to recycling methods and technologies and thank you for pointing out where to include it in the document.

      Dear Mhammad Asef Ghyasi,

      Thank you for your comments in regards to the effects of fertilizers on food safety, human and animal health, and the environment. These are certainly the kinds of issues we are trying to address with the Fertilizer Code and your feedback is extremely valuable and welcome. 

      Best regards, Debra