Creating Global Food Security: A vision of adapted crops and soils, keynote address by Dr Cary Fowler, U.S. Special Envoy for Global Food Security

September 14, 2023

At the 2023 Crawford Fund Annual Conference – Global Food Security in a Riskier World: Diversification for Resilient Food and Nutrition Systems, we were honoured to have Dr Cary Fowler, U.S. Special Envoy for Global Food Security, who shared his vision of adapted crops and soils to create global food security in the keynote address.

Dr Fowler is best known as the “father” of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which provides ultimate security for more than one million unique crop varieties.

As part of his address, Creating Global Food Security: A Vision of Adapted Crops and Soils, Dr Fowler talked about the challenges world agriculture faces to meet global food security amidst changing climatic conditions, noting that since 1961, grain production has reduced by half, and alarmingly, we have experienced above average temperatures in the last 533 consecutive months with drought, fires and floods occurring around the globe.

The need to focus on soil health and crop adaptation to meet future food security challenges was a key component of Dr Fowler’s presentation. He noted that erosion is taking soils 100 times the replenishing rate in Africa. Wheat, maize and rice are staple crops in Africa; however, under-utilised crops have the potential to perform well in a changing climate, whilst also meeting nutritional needs. He noted that building interest in these crops requires collaboration between breeders and nutritionists.

Dr Fowler concluded his address by acknowledging the unique importance of the Crawford Fund and calling for long-term investment in agriculture for sustainable food security.

We are also appreciative of Dr Fowler’s engagement with the media, completing a number of national TV, print and radio interviews organised for him around his press release on “Getting agriculture ‘back to basics’ in a riskier world”. These included live interviews on the ABC News Radio Mornings program and the Radio National Breakfast program; further interviews with ABC Rural covered in the Radio National Country Breakfast program; coverage also in The Guardian, and an interview with AAP which went broadly around the country including capital cities and regional papers. You’ll also find him heading the ABC TV Landline program’s news for Sunday, 10 September with the likelihood of a longer interview in the future. Interviews were also completed with the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age and with the national reporter for the rural weekly papers.

Mentioned in his address is his previous 2015 Sir John Crawford Memorial Address, on  Facing the uncomfortable challenge of food security.