Cary Fowler says crop diversity is essential to our future food supply

Earth’s climate and weather are tied to our food supply. And many scientists who model future climate believe that temperatures will rise and patterns of rainfall, freeze, and drought will become less certain while population increases.

Earth’s climate and weather are tied to our food supply. And many scientists who model future climate believe that temperatures will rise and patterns of rainfall, freeze, and drought will become less certain while population increases.

Cary Fowler: If we want an agricultural system that’s resilient, that’s strong, that’s able to respond to climate change, that can keep up with pests and diseases – if we want any of that – where do we get it? It doesn’t just occur by snapping our fingers or wishing it to be.

That’s Cary Fowler, and he’s talking about seeds. Fowler is executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust part of the force behind the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, opening in early 2008 with the goal of storing millions of seeds. Fowler believes it’s essential to save crop diversity in the form of seeds so plant breeders can develop new crop varieties with new characteristics for a changing climate.

Cary Fowler: The rapidity of change that’s going to be required far outstrips any kind of selective process that a farmer can undertake, but our domesticated crops are in our hands. They don’t evolve accidentally or on their own. Their evolution and their future, what they look like tomorrow and a hundred years from now, is really, for better or for worse, under our control.

Fowler said saving crop diversity is especially important because we don’t know precisely which seeds will have characteristics we may critically need. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, changes in climate will have a major effect on food security across the planet. In Africa, where most people rely on subsistence farming, food production is expected to decrease by 90% across the continent.

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

Lindsay Patterson