May 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Administration picks food security envoy

Dr. Cary Fowler is seen speaking.

Cary Fowler. Photo: Kris Krüg

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is appointing a global food security envoy as the war in Ukraine continues to disrupt global grain supplies, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The appointment of Cary Fowler to the position — which has existed but not since 2016 — is meant to bring high-level political attention to the issue. The fighting in Ukraine has disrupted the world's cereal crop supply, for example.

  • Nearly 40 million people could be pushed into food insecurity and poverty by 2022 as a result of the war, according to World Bank estimates.
  • This is in addition to the 161 million people driven into food insecurity as a result of the pandemic and other world conflicts.

Between the lines: Russia and Ukraine export almost 30% of the globe’s wheat, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

  • The war has already caused a significant drop in those exports as Ukrainian farmers flee their country.
  • Russia has also aimed missiles at food security facilities.

What they’re saying: Ramin Toloui, assistant secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, told Axios: “The tragedy is that people thousands of miles away from Ukraine, in vulnerable countries in the Middle East Africa, and in Latin America, are also suffering because of Russia's invasion."

The details: Fowler previously worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

  • Blinken calls him the “father of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault" — the "doomsday" vault in a Norwegian mountain designed to protect seed supplies from plague and attack in case they're needed to plant future crops.
  • "I will count on his strategic vision and advice as we advance efforts with the international community to address the many challenges to global food security, nutrition, and food systems,” the secretary said in a statement.
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