Cary Fowler

Nobel Conference 46

Cary Fowler, Ph.D., executive director, Global Crop Diversity Trust, Rome, Italy

Cary Fowler’s career in the conservation of crop diversity spans more than 30 years. An international advocate for genetic conservation, he has initiated worldwide conservation campaigns and proposed far-reaching programs, including the establishment of international seed banks, a plan that was adopted by the UN in 1983.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Fowler earned a B.A. from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada (1971). In 1978 he teamed with Canadian trade and development activist Pat Mooney to found the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a small nonprofit focusing on the socio-economic impact of new technologies on rural societies. Through RAFI they played a major role in the formulation of the Commission and Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In the 1990s he worked with the FAO on the first-ever global assessment of the world’s plant diversity, and drafted and helped negotiate the FAO’s Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources, which was adopted by 150 countries in 1996. He completed a Ph.D. at the University of Uppsala, Sweden (1994), and was professor and director of research in the Department for International Environment & Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences for 15 years before joining the Global Crop Diversity Trust in 2005.

Fowler is the author of several books on the subject of plant diversity and genetic resources and more than 75 articles on those topics in agriculture, law, and development journals. In 1985 he and Mooney were awarded the Right Livelihood Award—the so-called “alternative Nobel Prize”—in a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament “for working to save the world’s genetic plant heritage.”