Cary Fowler’s quest to save seeds from extinction

Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, talks about a large and ambitious seed-saving program that aims to safeguard the future of global agriculture.

A large and ambitious seed-saving program aims to safeguard the future of global agriculture. EarthSky spoke to Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, at a science meeting in early 2009.

Cary Fowler: In the next 2 years, we’re going to rescue from extinction about 100 thousand unique varieties of agricultural crops.

Seeds include rare varieties of wheat, grains, corn, and yams, among others. Plant breeders combine the genetic traits of different crops to create varieties that can overcome heat, drought, and pests in farmers’ fields.

Cary Fowler: We can’t assume that agriculture will simply be more and more productive because we want it to be more productive, we have to do something to make it more productive. The best, most efficient, greenest way to do that is to use the natural diversity that really exists.

Fowler said that currently these seeds are stored in unstable conditions, while losing their ability to grow. Fowler’s organization helps to plant and harvest the seeds, and the new seeds will be stored in seed banks including the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – known as the Doomsday Vault – near the North Pole. Fowler said the program will lower the threat of worldwide hunger.

Cary Fowler: Don’t make the assumption that agriculture is ready for climate change or ready to feed a world growing population. But do take some solace in the fact that it can be ready if we do our work properly.

Our thanks to:
Cary Fowler
Executive Director
Global Crop Diversity Trust
Rome, Italy

Lindsay Patterson