China: a great context for discussing the challenges the future holds for Slow Food

Insofar as it will start planning the structure Slow Food will have over the next ten to twenty years, the end-of-September Congress will be fundamental for the future of our association. The key words will be internationality and globality, referring both to the global diffusion of our movement and to its inclusive, open, barrierless organizational structure.

The decision to organize the congress in China is a testimony to this desire to adopt a global approach. China, in fact, is a country that is currently having to address one of the world’s biggest agricultural dilemmas: how to feed a fifth of humanity with only 7% of the planet’s farming land. It’s also a country which, since the 1980s, has made a series of choices that have led to an agricultural system based overwhelmingly on industrialization and the large-scale use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The environment has been devastated as a result and the repercussions have been very serious indeed at both national and global levels.

It is also true however that the history of farming in China goes back thousands of years. For centuries prior to mass modernization, China produced food for its own numerous population without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides and possessed the planet’s vastest food heritage.

China’s rice terraces are among the most iconic images of ancient agriculture in the world. Credit: Fusuo Zhang

Over the last few years, the Chinese government has decided to embark on a transition period towards a green development model, more mindful of the environment and the quality and wholesomeness of food. One of China’s ongoing revolutions has been triggered by the government’s recent decision to cut meat consumption by 50 per cent. By reducing CO2 emissions and limiting the practice of deforestation to create space for livestock farming, the move will benefit not only the health of the Chinese (a very high percentage of whom are affected by pathologies caused by poor eating) but also that of the planet.

China will thus provide an excellent context for us to discuss the challenges Slow Food will have to face in the future: from globality and the integration of cultural and food diversities to environmental protection and access to knowledge and information. It is no coincidence that the Congress will open with a meeting on the relationship between food and climate change attended by representatives of the Chinese government.

In short, the event will represent an important stage in Slow Food’s battle to change the food production and consumption system and to ensure that every single person on the planet is entitled to have access to good, clean and fair food.

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