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They Are Giants, But We Are Millions

She teaches and writes a blog, he fights against GMO and other good causes. They are Marion Nestle and José Bové, university professor and French European Parliament member, who, together on the stage of Teatro Carignano, in Turin, explained, discussed and made the audience indignant talking about CETA and GMO foods, in addition to meat laced with hormones and 1968.

For some months now, the European Parliament has been debating CETA, the free trade treaty with Canada,”Bové explains. “But there’s a big problem: the agreement includes protection for 140 European DOP denominations in Canada, but the total number of our DOPs is 1400. What about the others? They should all enjoy the same rights, there are no grade B excellences. Who made this distinction? In Italy there are 305 IGPs, but there are only 35 on their list. It’s outrageous! This means selling out European law and undoing the battles fought by our citizens, all in the service of purely economic interests!”And so? “So I urge all Italians to take a stand, to make their voices heard and change this state of affairs!”

The battle against the CETA has only just begun, but it shares some aspects with the European controversy against the marketing of “meat with hormones”, which was finally resolved just a few years ago after over twenty years of haggling with the United States and Canada. “The battle to ban beef treated with hormones began in 1980, when people realized that cattle raised in industrial barns were saturated with hormones and never left their stalls. In France we had strikes against meat, people stopped buying it, and we are certain that this had an influence on the institution of the ban against hormones that is in effect all over Europe. Of course, the United States was unhappy that the EU stopped importing American beef, which has always been full of hormones.”In 1996, smarting from the economic loss, the United States and Canada appealed to the court of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and they won their case, obtaining authorization to impose commercial sanctions on products originating frogigantimoltitudine_bovem the EU, because the appeals court ruled that the EU position violated free trade regulations. “It’s always about business above everything else, the people’s health was ignored once again. As a protest, we dismantled a McDonald’s that was under construction in Millau, because it is a symbol of the supremacy of profit. But in 2012 the situation was resolved, with the EU permitted to retain its ban against meat treated with hormones, in exchange for allowing an increase in imports of high quality beef from the US and Canada to the EU. A step forward against the lobbies and the interests of the multinationals!”

But for the man in the street it’s difficult to understand the intricacies of official proclamations. How can we find out more? “In my blog I address myself to normal people , who eat three times a day and want to understand the world of food, which is becoming increasingly complicated,” says Nestle. I explain what’s going on in the agro-alimentary sector in simple terms, hoping that they will feel impelled to take on an active role, to talk to their local representatives and make themselves heard. You have to vote with your fork, and when we elect someone, we have to make a choice based also on whether that person is concerned with our health.”

Exemplars of activism and action, that’s how Corby Kummer, the “dean of American food writers” and the meeting’s moderator, sees them, because they are in the front lines every day, fighting against the food giants, for the same ends but from two different perspectives.

I was at Berkeley in ’68, and it was there that I became aware of the power of the individual,”Nestle recalls. “We stopped the war in Vietnam, we fought for civil rights legislation and for women’s rights. Living through a period of turbulence and change was a great inspiration. But I’m not an activist, I don’t like the term, I think of myself as an academic supporter of the gastronomic movements; I am inside the system, and I try to stimulate my students to rebel against those who control what they eat, but always within the confines of the law.”

Although it served to awaken the awareness of Ngigantimoltitudine_nestleestle and many others, according to Bové the sixties didn’t really persuade people to fight against the state in France and the rest of Europe: “Most of the movements in those years opposed a certain part of the state, they wanted social change but had no intention of doing away with the institutions themselves. Our culture sees the state as dominant over its citizens, while in the United States people are suspicious of the government. Thomas Jefferson said that the best government is that which governs the least.”

It is this difference in the relationship between the citizenry and the state that makes it more difficult for Europeans to contrast its politicians, but this does not apply in the case of GMO.

If it hadn’t been for the popular opposition to GMO, genetically modified organisms would be cultivated throughout the continent today: in France we cut down entire hectares of illegally planted GMO. Through concrete action, with mass participation, we applied the American paradigm of civil disobedience.” Bové believes that GMO cultivation should be blocked not only for health and environmental reasons, but for the issue of patents: “Privatizing seeds is thegigantimoltitudine_ttip ultimate step in the multinationals’ dominance over the people. Genetic manipulation is the final solution, an ambition never before realized in the history of mankind.”

But if that is true, why did the anti-GMO movement fail in the United States? According to Bové, “It’s a question of culture. It’s no accident that Slow Food originated in Italy, and that the French meal has been accorded the status of a cultural heritage by UNESCO. Everything that involves food is important to us, we cannot help but react. And if someone says that you’re wrong, if they disagree with what you’re saying, you can find the right path anyway, you’ll always find the strength to resist from those who support you and who are on your side.”

Francesca Monticone

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 Regione Piemonte
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