Cary Fowler

Executive Director, Global Crop Diversity Trust

Cary Fowler is Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which seeks to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. The Global Crop Diversity Trust and, specifically, Dr. Fowler have played a key role in the creation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault near the Arctic Circle. Dr. Fowler headed the international committee that assessed the feasibility of establishing a seed vault, and then developed its scientific and operational plan. He has been a central figure in virtually every aspect of its development from the beginning.

Prior to joining the Trust as its Executive Director, Dr. Cary Fowler was Professor and Director of Research in the Department for International Environment & Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. He was also a Senior Advisor to the Director General of Bioversity International. In this latter role, he represented the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in negotiations on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Cary's career in the conservation and use of crop diversity spans 30 years. He was Program Director for the National Sharecroppers Fund / Rural Advancement Fund, a US-based NGO engaged in plant genetic resources education and advocacy. In 1985 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (the "Alternative Nobel Prize") in a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament. In the 1990s, he headed the International Conference and Programme on Plant Genetic Resources at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which produced the UN's first ever 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 Plant Genetic Resources, adopted by 150 countries in 1996. That same year he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the World Food Summit. During the negotiation process of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, Cary chaired a series of off-the-record retreats with key delegates, sponsored by the Nordic countries. He is a past-member of the National Plant Genetic Resources Board of the U.S. and the Board of Trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, and is currently Chair of the International Advisory Council of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. He holds a position as Associate Curator at the Memphis City Family of Museums.

Cary has been profiled by CBS 60 Minutes and the New Yorker, is the author of several books on the subject of plant genetic resources and more than 75 articles on the topic in agriculture, law, and development journals. Cary earned his Ph.D. at the University of Uppsala (Sweden), and in 2008 received an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University (Canada).