Carlo Petrini

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INTERVIEW WITH Carlo Petrini
(Founder of “Slow Food” -  http://www.slowfood.com/)

Carlo Petrini is an Italian gastronome, journalist and writer, founder of the nonprofit international organization Slow Food. Carlo Petrini is a staunch supporter of the centrality of agriculture in promoting a sustainable development of Italian peculiarities and of an environmentally friendly agriculture, respectful of the landscape. According to Carlo Petrini, we should give new importance to disappearing jobs, those crafts that are necessary for our society and represent opportunities of employment, such as the refiner, the baker, the brewmaster and so on. For this reason, he is launching, in collaboration with the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the courses of High Apprenticeship aimed at those who wish to learn such jobs (http://www.unisg.it/apprendistato/presentazione/). Carlo Petrini is at the forefront in the battle against GMOs. On 9 December 1989 in Paris he founded the International Slow Food Movement, whose objective is explained in three principles: 1) educating to taste, nutrition, and food science; 2) safeguarding biodiversity and traditional food production associated with it; 3) promoting a new food model that respects the environment, traditions and cultural identities and bring consumers to the world of production. Why the current agricultural model doesn’t work, especially in consideration of the challenges we are facing (climate change, growing population, growing consumption levels in emerging countries) and how should it change? Carlo Petrini answered to this and other questions.
 
INTERVIEW - (April 2013)
The interview was realized in April 2013 and published in May 2013 - (Our translation on the original Italian interview)
Subject: Slow Food, sustainability of agricultural models
 
 
1. Question: Slow Food was founded in 1989. What does Slow Food mean , what did lead to its birth and how much progress has been made to date?

Answer:
Slow Food really means a lot of different things that we try to sum up in the principle "good, clean and fair" that has characterized us for years. All started in Paris, December 9th 1989, when at the Opéra Comique over twenty delegations from various countries of the world signed the Manifesto of the International Slow Food Movement. So there began the real adventure, which has taken us up with projects such as the University of Gastronomic Sciences and with the large and widespread network of Terra Madre. Slow Food is now working in 150 countries where it backs the right to food and the respect for food sovereignty.  We try to support the growth of local economies and we have several projects we are proud of, from the Presidium to the Thousand Gardens in Africa and the Earth Markets, just to mention a few. We are involved in several other projects, but a hundred pages would not be enough to describe everything we do!
 

2. Question:
The dominant model of production in the food supply chain is based on an intensive use of land, a mass distribution of products and the attempt to introduce GM seeds in agriculture. Can you explain the negative and positive consequences of such a model and what is "Slow Food’s point of view" on it?

Answer:
First of all, we should understand that it is essential to restore the centrality of food in our culture, and, to do so, we must focus on agriculture. The current situation of the world is in great part due to the history of Western agriculture that has lost some of the most important objectives of those people who care about the centrality of food. If the exploitation of land and the overbuilding of fertile soil go on, we cannot ensure a future to ourselves and our planet. It is essential then a drastic change of mentality, because we must not forget that we are what we eat. This issue becomes more complicated when it comes to GMOs: on one hand, we must not be contrary to the development of new technologies, but, on the other hand, it is essential to adopt an approach that takes into account the protection of biodiversity and the socio-economic consequences. In short, technology choices in agriculture should not be in conflict with the interest of peoples and with a healthy economic system. In that sense, the transgenic agriculture is not sustainable or economically efficient. Moreover, so far there are no reliable studies on GMOs effects on human health. What we need is a change of mentality in order to cancel the real illness of our society: “food waste”. In fact, it is estimated that for every European it is produced 840 kg of food a year, of which about 280 kg come lost; 200 kg are already lost in the fields, during the processing phase and in supermarkets, before the consumer could see them. Slow Food has always been sensitive to this issue, supporting many educational activities, raising the awareness of people and providing them with valuable advice. On our site it is available via downloading the guide “Il nostro spreco quotidiano“(our daily waste), from the collection “Mangiamoli Giusti” (http://slowpress.slowfood.it/upload/201211/C2744B880a41b1C0A7myT1FC4402/files/sprechi_dp_1_.pdf). On May 25th it is planned the Slow Food Day, an event that takes place in almost 300 Italian squares through meetings, conferences and workshops. This year this event will focus on Food Waste.
 

3. Question:
 In your opinion, could the big companies be part of a new agricultural model, more respectful of biodiversity, local cultures, of consumer’s health and more sensitive to the issue of waste? How?

Answer:
Of course! Some companies are already following a similar approach. Their involvement is essential for agriculture. But it is essential also for them because if they are closer to producers, they can sell safer and better products. This is also good for the “Made in Italy”. When products come from places very far (“food miles” are very high), when the food supply chain is not transparent, there will be problems for both the companies and the consumers: just think of the recent food scandals that have severely damaged both Italy and consumers.
 

4. Question:
Slow Food is involved in more themes: organization of events (Terra Madre, Salone Internazionale del Gusto, Slow Fish etc..), promotion of sustainable agriculture in support of biodiversity  (through the Slow Food foundation for Biodiversity), publications and public awareness. What is the best way to change the characteristics of the modern agriculture? In particular, what is more important: the education of consumers or of the institutions in their processes of supporting agricultural activity?

Answer:
Of course, we must rely on both the actors. Slow Food has always focused on the basic education of both adults and children in order to change paradigms and habits and so to involve institutions. To this end, Slow Food has in place a series of actions: Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Torino, Slow Fish in Genova and Cheese in Bra
 

5. Question:
Could you tell us something about the Terra Madre project?

Answer:
Terra Madre is a big project: a big network of food communities, men and women working for a common project, but maintaining their characteristics and traditions. It is a new way of conceiving the production, the processing and the consumption of food; a way that has its origins in the past, but that look forward.  The biennial meetings of the communities are fundamental for keeping the network alive, for consolidating social identity, for sharing new ideas. Terra Madre’s network and its members are present every day in every place in the world.
 

6. Question:
There are developed countries, emergent countries (BRICS), developing countries and poor countries. In your opinion, what of these countries should be more sensitized in order to establish a more sustainable agricultural model?

Answer:
In our opinion, countries should not be distinguished; all the countries should be involved in order to establish a new sustainable agricultural model: certainly, however, the developed countries have a greater responsibility in this process, especially in leading developing countries to this new path. First, they have to fight against colonization and land grabbing. There are a lot of food communities with local important projects that ordinary people (too often) don’t know. A right step is to learn from them and sharing experiences and traditions.
 

7. Question:
Finally, if you could send a message to humans, what would you advise them to preserve themselves and our planet in the long period?

Answer:
We must consider food as a source of prosperity (wealth), exchange and culture. Only by protecting our food we could preserves our sources and our planet. This means acting at all levels: production, distribution and consumption of food.