Cary Fowler

Cary Fowler

Crop Trust, Special Advisor


Dr. Cary Fowler led the initial effort to establish the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located near the North Pole, the largest crop diversity conservation effort in the world. He currently serves as chair of the Vault’s International Advisory Council, which oversees its technical and scientific activities. He is former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international organization and endowment fund that is one of three partners operating the Seed Vault.

Prior to joining the Crop Trust, Cary was professor and director of research in the Department for International Environment and Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

In the 1990s, he oversaw the United Nations’ first global assessment of the state of the world’s plant genetic resources. He drafted and supervised negotiations of FAO’s Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, adopted by 150 countries in 1996. That same year he served as special assistant to the secretary general of the World Food Summit.

He is a past member of the National Plant Genetic Resources Board of the United States, the Livestock Conservancy, Seed Savers Exchange, and the board of trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California, Davis, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He is the incoming chair of the board of trustees of Rhodes College, an elected member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and a member of the New York Botanical Garden Corporation and the Garden’s Plant Research and Conservation Advisory Council.

In 2015, President Obama appointed Dr. Fowler to the seven-member Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.

Cary has been profiled by CBS 60 Minutes, and the New Yorker and is the subject of the documentary film Seeds of Time (www.seedsoftimemovie.com). In 2009, he gave a celebrated TED talk at Oxford. He is the author of several books on the subject of crop diversity, including the award winning Seeds on Ice, published in 2016. A native of Tennessee, Cary earned his PhD at Uppsala University (Sweden). He holds an honorary doctorate of law from Simon Fraser University (Canada) and an honorary doctorate of science from Rhodes College (USA). He is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, Heinz Award, William Brown Award from the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Vavilov Medal, Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings Award, and the Meyer Award from the Crop Science Society of America.

Cary and his wife, Amy Goldman, a celebrated garden writer, reside on a farm in the Hudson Valley of New York State, where she grows hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, melons and peppers, and he tries to keep up with an 125-variety apple orchard, a rare breed of chicken and cattle, and the always challenging bee hives.

I support Food Forever because it addresses one of the central challenges of our time – ensuring food security in a time of profound climate change. The urgency of safeguarding agricultural biodiversity and preserving the adaptive options it provides requires us all to work together. This is a task for all countries and an imperative that world leaders must recognize and embrace.

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