Biodiversity warrior Cary Fowler wants to save the world from agricultural collapse, one seed at a time.

Why you should listen

Tucked away under the snows of the Arctic Circle is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Sometimes called the doomsday vault, it's nothing less than a backup of the world's biological diversity in a horticultural world fast becoming homogenous in the wake of a flood of genetically identical GMOs.

For Cary Fowler, a self-described Tennessee farm boy, this vault is the fulfillment of a long fight against shortsighted governments, big business and potential disaster. Inside the seed vault, Fowler and his team work on preserving wheat, rice and hundreds of other crops that have nurtured humanity since our ancestors began tending crops -- and ensuring that the world's food supply has the diversity needed to stand against the omnipresent threats of disease, climate change and famine.

What others say

“For individual crop varieties, doomsday does come every day. We want to put an end to that.” — Cary Fowler, Washington Post

Cary Fowler’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Cary Fowler


A keeper of seeds hopes to save the world from starvation

May 2, 2014

Known as the "doomsday vault," the Global Seed Vault on the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, is built to protect the world’s seed diversity from natural disasters and warfare. We talked to its mastermind, Cary Fowler, who is in the strange position of hoping his life's work is never used.

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Q&A with Cary Fowler: Saving seeds to protect our food supplies

September 2, 2009

Before Cary Fowler’s TEDTalk posted on Monday, the TEDBlog caught up with him in Norway, via phone. We asked the difficult questions and he provided calm, leveled answers on the food crises of today. He’s taken on a challenging role, as director of the largest seed bank in the world and the Global Crop Diversity […]

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