Dr. Cary Fowler is best known as the “father” of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has described as an “inspirational symbol of peace and food security for the entire humanity.” He proposed creation of this Arctic facility and headed the international committee that developed the plan for its establishment by Norway. The Seed Vault provides ultimate security to more than 864,000 unique crop varieties, the raw material for all future plant breeding and crop improvement efforts. He chairs the International Council that oversees its operations.
The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recruited him in the 1990s to head the first global assessment of the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources. He was personally responsible for drafting and negotiating the first FAO Global Plan of Action on the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources, formally adopted by 150 countries in 1996. Following this, Dr. Fowler served as Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the World Food Summit. From 2005-2012, Dr. Fowler led the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international organization cosponsored by Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR-World Bank). The Crop Trust’s mandate was to develop a rational and effective international system for conserving crop diversity, in perpetuity. During his tenure, he built an endowment of $130 million and raised an additional $100+ million (including the first major grant given for agriculture by the Gates Foundation and perhaps the only such grants ever made by the Ethiopia) for programs to conserve crop diversity and make it available for plant breeding. The Trust organized a global project to rescue 90,000 threatened crop varieties in developing countries – the largest such effort in history – and is now engaged in an effort Dr. Fowler initiated with the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) to collect, conserve and pre-breed the wild relatives of 26 major crops.
Prior to leading the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Dr. Fowler was Professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås Norway. He headed research and the Ph.D. program at the Department of International Environment and Development Studies. He holds a Ph.D. from Uppsala University in Sweden. He is the author of a number of books and the recipient of a number of awards. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of Rhodes College. He has been profiled by The New Yorker, CBS 60 Minutes, New Scientist, and is the subject of several documentary films, including Seeds of Time, which is now in theatres.