2015 Conference: Cary Fowler


Profitability, sustainability and risk

10-12 August 2015


Program & Presentations
Sir John Crawford Memorial Address
Conference Scholars


Dr Cary Fowler
Crop diversity advocate who oversaw the development of the Svalbard Global ‘doomsday’ Seed Vault

FowlerDr Cary Fowler is best known as the “father” of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. He headed the international committee for its establishment and he chairs the Council that oversees its operations. 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.

In 2005 Dr Fowler led the Global Crop Diversity Trust whose mandate was to develop a rational and effective international system for conserving crop diversity, in perpetuity. In the 1990s he led the team to produce the UN’s first global assessment of the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources, drafting and negotiating the first FAO Global Plan of Action on the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources, which was formally adopted by 150 countries in 1996.

Dr Fowler was a Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the World Food Summit (twice) and represented CGIAR/World Bank in negotiations on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources.

He has served on many boards, including Rhodes College, the NY Botanical Garden Corporation, the U.S. National Plant Genetic Resources Board and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. He is the recipient of many prestigious awards and two honorary doctorates. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Academy of Sciences. He has lectured widely and is the author or co-author of more than 100 articles and several books.

Born in 1949, he studied at Simon Fraser University in Canada and earned his PhD at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Sir John Crawford Memorial Address:
Facing the Uncomfortable Challenge of Food Security

Providing adequate food for a growing population has been humanity’s persistent challenge for millennia. Today, agriculture faces threats that are arguably more daunting than in any previous era. The basic components of food production—land, water, nutrients, climate and crops—all appear poised to undermine rather than improve food security and thus threaten national security and peace. This historically unprecedented combination of challenges to agriculture will test political leadership and governments’ ability to plan, prioritize and mobilize.

The lecture will enumerate the impediments to crop production and pose the question of whether we are prepared to help crops adapt and flourish in these changed conditions. Focus will be on crop diversity, its conservation and use as a prerequisite for food production and security. Innovative approaches will be necessary if many important but less commercial crops are to remain productive, particularly in developing countries.

To conclude, there will be a virtual tour of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a notable effort to fashion a long-term solution to the loss of the genetic diversity upon which agriculture will depend in the future.