DW Documentary | 09/02/2024
China has headed the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 2019. During this time, the country has restructured the organization’s personnel. Critics complain that China is advancing its own interests, using the UN’s largest specialized agency. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), headquartered in Rome, is responsible for food and agriculture worldwide. It is the UN’s largest specialized agency. It collects data on the agricultural sector and develops projects to help people access better nutrition – something that is more important than ever, with climate change and the growing world population.
Qu Dongyu, from China, has been Director-General of the FAO since 2019. After taking office, he restructured the organization. He appointed Chinese directors to central departments. Before Qu’s election, two director positions were occupied by Chinese nationals. Now, that number is six. One of these directors is responsible for crop protection – which includes the handling of pesticides. A research team was able to view internal documents that show that dozens of shipments of problematic pesticides to countries in Asia and Africa have been approved since 2020.
Approvals were granted not only for insecticides used in emergencies — for example, to combat a locust plague — but for herbicides and fungicides, as well. These are used against weeds and fungal infestations. Many of the pesticides approved for delivery by the FAO contain active ingredients that are no longer allowed in the EU due to their toxicity. When asked, the FAO replied that it does not supply pesticides that qualify as ‘highly hazardous’ and only sends those that are approved in the recipient country. But the FAO left questions about specific pesticide approvals unanswered.
An insider who has worked at the FAO for many years also made serious accusations against the Chinese leadership, claiming that it was instrumentalizing the UN organization for geopolitical purposes. Further research shed light on the role of Chinese officers in the FAO. These Chinese nationals are employed by the FAO — but their salaries are paid by China. Other countries also pay officers from their home countries.
owever, the regime in Beijing puts a premium on “political ideology” – as Chinese tender documents show. According to these documents, the officers must regularly report on their work at the FAO to the Chinese embassy in Rome. And none of this is set to change anytime soon: in July 2023, Qu Dongyu was re-elected as Director-General for another four years.