WPC International Advisor Dr. Peter VanderZaag Recognized In China

Last month, in recognition of his years of leadership, Dr. VanderZaag was awarded China’s prestigious Friendship Award by Premier Li Keqiang. The award is the nation’s highest honor for achievement by a non-Chinese for outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress.

Nearly three decades ago, CIP Board of Trustee Dr. Peter VanderZaag went to China to open an International Agricultural Research Center in China, the first of its kind. He initiated collaborative research work in China on behalf of the International Potato Center (CIP) in 1985. According to Dr. Vander Zaag, at that time China was just opening the door to the outside world and Chinese scientists were eager to learn new technologies, evaluate new potato genetic material and were exceedingly responsive to all the educational programs offered by CIP.

Over the past 29 years of his involvement, a major transformation has occurred in China’s agriculture! The potato has increased 3 fold in area and more than doubled in yield per hectare. Dr. Vander Zaag credits the hard work and determination of his many Chinese colleagues in accomplishing this massive increase in potatoes. China now is the world’s largest potato producer with nearly 25% of the annual global production!

Director Lu Xiaoping, of the CIP China Center for Asia and the Pacific, credits Dr. Vander Zaag for his role in educating many of the potato scientists and leaders of today. “The impact of all his graduate students is truly amazing and will let his legacy live on,” said the director, “We are deeply honoured to have Dr. Vander Zaag recognized for his tireless efforts in helping China strive towards food self sufficiency.”

In recent years Dr. VanderZaag has served as a member and Chair of CIP’s Board of Trustees. In that capacity, he helped create the CIP Center for Asia and the Pacific, which promises to further solidify China’s role in the global potato research and production community.

Dr. Vander Zaag sees the task ahead as daunting. Increased population, decreased cultivated land, climate change and the demands of a better diet will require that China attract the brightest students to do Agricultural research as well as farming. He is profoundly honoured by this award and remains committed to continue working alongside his Chinese colleagues in the years ahead.

In accepting his award Dr. VanderZaag recognized the hard working farmers of Yunnan and China. “In the 1980s farmers lived in poverty and struggled to survive,” he noted, “My desire was to see them have better lives for their families. That has come true!”

VanderZaag went on to say, “I have a special kinship with the farmers of Yunnan. They are my brothers and sisters in producing food for themselves and the great cities of our world!” He challenged his colleagues to confront anticipated heavy demands on farmers of the future. “We need the brightest and most industrious students to become the scientists and the farmers of tomorrow here in Yunnan, in China, in Canada, and everywhere around the earth! Agriculture needs to get back to center stage in our societies.”

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