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The Future of Food is in Our Hands

“The road is strewn with many dangers. First, is the danger of futility: the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills […] Yet each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” — Robert Kennedy

These words comforted me as a young girl, when a poster of Robert Kennedy adorned my bedroom wall. His speech is a source of hope for us when we buy organic peaches at €3.5 per kilo and ask ourselves if it’s really the right thing for both us and the environment. Our incredible power as citizens, who vote three times a day with our meal choices, will be up for discussion at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto at They Are Giants, But We Are Millions, with Member of the European Parliament José Bové and Professor Marion Nestle. Together we’ll be analyzing two of the big questions that have been debated extensively in recent years, seeing what has been achieved so far and what still needs to be done.

Organic farming

What’s been achieved

bioWendell Berry once said “eating is an agricultural act”, and every day we’re careful about the products we buy.We’ve come a long way from the fathers of organic food, the agronomists Pfeiffer and Howard, who were the first to study alternative approaches to agriculture, thereafter inspiring Müller and Rusch, a Swiss biologist and a German doctor who developed a method of “organic-biologic” agriculture in 1945. A lot has changed since then, with the Green Revolution of the 60s and 70s, and now organic farming is now regulated in many countries. The European Commission defines organic farming as “a way of producing good that respects natural life cycles and minimizes human impact on the environment”. The first EU legislation dates back to 1991, when EEC regulation 2092/91 established a series of principles and precise rules, which have since been updated in 2007 with regulation 834/07 – which set out the necessary requirements for producers to satisfy before being able to use the official EU organic farming logo. It seems like such a simple step forward, but think about how much work by how many people lies behind it: agronomists, farmers, writers, politicians, legislators, artists and economists have all played a part – whether consciously or not – in the formation of a market that is now worth more than a billion euros a year in Italy alone. According to the Rodale Institute, this organic farming uses 45% less energy and produces 40% less greenhouse gas emissions.

What needs to be done

Can mass-produced products destined for export or large-scale distribution be organic? Can the products of a company be organic if that same company, in another line of its business, pollutes the earth? No, they can’t. As citizens we must keep a close eye on our food and the words used to describe it, otherwise they may lose all meaning.”1 Today 41% of organic food sales are actually from industrial-scale mass production which despite conforming to the rules of certification abide by the same consumerist, standardized logic of conventional agriculture. It may be organic in name, but it also needs to be organic by nature.


What’s been achieved

Slow Food has foughtstopTTIP against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for a long and we’re far from the only ones: in October 2014 more than 200 European organizations gathered more than half a million signatures in five days as part of the Stop TTIP initiative to end negotiations between the United States and the European Union. A year later the number of signatures had reached 3.2 million, as the risks became more widely known, from the lack of transparency to the dangers to our health and the economic viability of small-scale producers. Over the years, the protests against TTIP have filled squares across Europe and myriad minor events have played their part in raising public awareness, too. The breakthrough came with the publication of treaty documents by Greenpeace last May, followed by French refusal to back the deal in its current form, which has made the prospect of TTIP ever more unlikely.

What needs to be done

It’s too early to claim victory, of course, for although TTIP seems almost defeated, its twin brother CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is almost finalized. Negotiated between the Canadian government with the same format as TTIP, this deal shares the same philosophy: the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has recently said he wants to block national governments from taking part in the negotiations, leaving all executive power with the EU itself. This declaration was met with immediate outcry by European prime ministers, but we can’t let ourselves be tricked into feeling safe – but must continue to inform ourselves, even in the oppressive summer heat!

Come and widen your perspective on these issues and more with José Bové and Marion Nestle at They Are Giants, But We Are Millions!

by Francesca Monticone

1C. Scaffidi, Mangia come parli, Slow Food Editore, Bra, 2014

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
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Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
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