The Good Side of Global

21 Jul 2002

Organized by the Tuscany Regional Authority, the conference ‘From Global to Glocial – Social questions, global solutions’ was held in San Rossore for the second year running on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 July.

The two days were packed with interesting proposals and polemics, and the second was dedicated, among other things, to the peasant world and what the President of the Tuscany Regional Authority Martini rightly described as the ‘passage from the protest phase to the proposal phase’. The day featured a fascinating round table in which Vandana Shiva, the famous Indian ecologist, Gian Tommaso Scarascia Mugnozza, a university lecturer, and Erio Ziglio, European director of the World Health Organization, debated the theme of GMOs and food security. Albeit setting out from contrasting points of view (Scarascia Mugnozza argued in favor of a controlled use of GMOs in the agroindustrial field), all three were agreed on one point – the need to act. My position is close to Vandana Shiva’s (why not declare some areas ‘Monsanto Free’ as a number of peasant villages in India have done?), precisely because the philosophy of small-scale projects and labor in the field has always been one of the driving forces of Slow Food.

Speaking of which, the second afternoon at San Rossore was dedicated to our Presidia project. At the moment, 140 Presidia are operating in Italy and the idea of saving and promoting traditional quality produce has also proved successful in an economic sense. The first international Presidia (mustard seed oil and basmati rice in India, argan oil in Morocco) were also presented at San Rossore. Maya Jani of Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya association for mustard seed oil and Zubida Charrouf for Moroccan argan oil offered a practical demonstration of how what I like to call ‘good globalization’ is actually feasible. Non-charitable aid from the West can, in fact, persuade small producers not to abandon crops in danger of extinction only if it can offer them the promise of a minimum profit for their labor. In certain cases, it may suffice to simply open up channels with affluent Europe (restaurants could use the products in question, for example) to trigger a virtuous circle capable of making these producers economically independent in a short space of time. In other cases, production is typically local, not export-oriented (this is the case of Indian mustard oil), but the final aim is nevertheless to avoid losing products and knowhow jeopardized by distorted productive logics and by a type of globalization that I personally abhor.

Soon a Foundation will be set up in partnership with the Tuscany Regional Authority to finance the projects of the new International Presidia. This new, concrete venture will hopefully provide a glimmer of hope for all those who have no intention of passively accepting the logic of the free market and wish to preserve savors and savvy that risk vanishing as a result of pittance wages Returning to my first point, I’m happy to note that the proposal phase is slowly replacing the protest phase. This is why I hope that the nascent Foundation will work transparently as a catalyst and a driving force for all those initiatives that combine to form ‘good globalization’.

First published in La Stampa on 21/07/2002

Adapted and abridged by John Irving

Carlo Petrini

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