The recent visit by the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development Dacian Cioloş to the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) in Italy, reminds us of the great potential in Europe to develop a food system that not only respects the rich history of production, but also the landscape, environment and people. Speaking at the inauguration of the 2011-2012 academic year, Cioloş used the opportunity to discuss how sustainable agriculture could take hold in Europe. One of his key messages was for a holistic vision, where food is considered within its environmental, social and cultural implications, which Slow Food hopes to see become the underlying principle of the new European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“Agriculture and gastronomy are profoundly connected and this is why the projects being implemented by the university complement the Common Agricultural Policy, as they reinforce the principles on which we want to base its reform,” said Cioloş. “In particular, I’m referring to a better organization of production, of the quality of agricultural products and of sustainability. In my opinion, these are and must remain the key points. We have to decide together what agriculture we want.”
Slow Food President Carlo Petrini shared Cioloş’s sentiments, emphasizing in particular the importance of protecting small-scale production. “The future of small-scale agricultural communities that play a vital role in the defence of landscapes and unique ecosystems is at risk,” he said. “The current policies concerning rural development have proven to be inadequate in satisfying the needs of these communities. Populations are growing increasingly older and the presence of young people in the agricultural sector is constantly decreasing. The abandonment of rural areas results in social decline and a great loss of biodiversity and quality food production,” underlined Petrini. “For change to take place, new agricultural paradigms that take both traditional and scientific knowledge into consideration are needed. This has been the mission of Slow Food and the Terra Madre network and has guided the work of the UNISG.”
The need to rewrite agricultural policies was clear to the students, who were represented by their spokesman, Pierpaolo Porcu. “The obsession with economic indicators like GDP has transformed a society interested in well-being into a society interested in being well-off. We have to challenge the principle according to which profit is an end in itself, and CAP reform offers an important occasion to discuss such fundamental issues.”
Before the ceremony came to a close, the Commissioner responded to a series of questions from students on pertinent issues: the greening of EU agricultural policies, the diversification of policies in marginal areas and the land grabbing phenomenon in Africa. In his responses, Cioloş called for an approach of unity through diversity. It is necessary to have common objectives and priorities, but the manner in which these are put in place should depend on regional specificities,” he said.
To find out more about Slow Food’s campaign for a Slow Europe and follow our discussion of the CAP, visit: www.slowfood.com/sloweurope
UNISG was founded by Slow Food eight years ago, with support from the Regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, and has welcomed more than 1,000 students from more than 60 countries.
Find out more about the university at www.unisg.it