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About Cary Fowler

Cary Fowler Image 2

Cary Fowler was born in 1949 in Memphis, Tennessee, and graduated from White Station High School in 1967. As a student at Rhodes College, Fowler chose a bridge major between political science and psychology. He received an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from Simon Fraser University and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Rhodes College. He also received a B.A (with Honors) from Simon Fraser University in Canada, and a Ph.D from Uppsala University in Sweden.

Fowler is an exceptionally accomplished individual. After graduate school, he became the program director for the National Sharecroppers Fund/Rural Advancement Fund, a U.S.-based nongovernment organization. In 1985, Fowler received the Right Livelihood Award for his work in agriculture and the preservation of biodiversity.

During the ’90s, he headed the International Conference and Program on Plant Genetic Resources at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The conference produced the organization’s first global assessment of the state of the world’s plant genetic resources. He also drafted and supervised negotiations of FAO’s Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources, adopted by 150 countries—including the United States—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 U.S. and the board of trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.
Dubbed the “World Seed Banker,” Fowler spearheaded the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome, Italy, an international organization which conserves seeds to protect the worldwide crop diversity.  He also founded the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway in 2008.   

In 2010, he received one of the ten Heinz Awards (with a special focus on global change) and in the following year he received an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Rhodes College.
In 2013 the Cary Fowler ’71 Environmental Studies International Fellowship was created in his honor, for graduating students with an interest in the Global Crop Diversity Trust and a background in Environmental Science/Studies. On May 10, 2013, Fowler was the guest speaker at Rhodes College for the Baccalaureate service.

These days, Fowler serves as full-time executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome, which aims to build a $260 million endowment through donations from governments, foundations and corporations. The interest from the endowment, says Fowler, will guarantee effective conservation and ready availability of the seeds to those who need them. Fowler also currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Rhodes.