The European Union’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş, inaugurated the academic year of Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) last Friday in Bra, Italy. The Commissioner was joined by Slow Food International President Carlo Petrini as well as the university student body during the event, where the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), EU’s legislation package on agricultural policy currently under reform, took a central focus.
“It gives me great pleasure to take part in the inauguration of the academic year of the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Agronomy and gastronomy share a close bond; our choices regarding one influence the quality of the other. It is for this reason that projects such as those carried along by the university are so important and complement the CAP. They strengthen the direction that we want to give the CAP in support of the organisation of production, sustainability, quality and the promotion of agricultural products. These are the keys to growth and the jobs of tomorrow,” said Cioloş.
Slow Food President Carlo Petrini shared the sentiments of the importance of securing future livelihoods in agriculture, 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.” Between 2000 and 2007, the number of European farmers under 35 years of age drastically diminished, with the number of young people choosing to work in agriculture dropping by 42%. “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.”
Since its official opening eight years ago, over 1000 students from more than 60 countries have attended courses at the university. To date, 74% of graduates are employed, with an average of 60% finding jobs within two months of graduation.
Cioloş and Petrini both emphasized the importance of food as well as the cultural, environmental, social, political and economical effects of food production. The extraordinary complexity of food culture is also a foundation of the university’s studies. Future agricultural policies should reflect this complexity and actively involve all members of civil society, from farmers to co-producers (conscience consumers).
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.
Slow Food International Presse Office Paola Nano – [email protected] – +39 329 8321285
University of Gastronomic Sciences Communication Office Alessandra Abbona – [email protected] – +39 0172 458507 – +39 329 9079183