Without ever renouncing the importance of the right to pleasure connected to food, Slow Food has transformed itself into a political subject, just like the Terra Madre food communities, which are characterized by an emotional intelligence and an austere anarchy and able to assert their rights thanks to the network that unites them.
These concepts were expressed during the first days of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, currently on-going in Turin until October 29, anticipating the issues at the center of Slow Food’s sixth International Congress. The congress opened today with introductory speeches given by Dacian Cioloş, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Carlo Petrini, the president of Slow Food.
Participating in the congress are 650 delegates from 95 countries, ready to express themselves on the political and cultural issues at the base of the daily actions of the 1,500 convivia and over 2,500 food communities active in 130 countries. Representatives from this articulated and complex network will be discussing and sharing visions and projects that can give a deeper meaning to its activities. For the first time, the composition of the Slow Food International Congress is an expression of the entire worldwide network, as evidenced not only by the multitude of delegations present but also the diversity of cultures, faiths and individual and collective stories represented by the convivia and food communities.
These issues at the heart of the congress were discussed by Carlo Petrini and Father Alex Zanotelli, formerly an African missionary who now works in Naples, during the conference Enforcing the Right to Food: How? at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre on Friday.
“It is interesting that in a period of crisis, like the current one, food is relegated to the oppressive context of television entertainment. This is not gastronomy, this is food porn. Food has lost its value and become a commodity. Instead we need to go back to a holistic approach, and to do that we need to listen to the four categories of people who have long been relegated to the margins of society, but from whom we have much to learn: women, the elderly, farmers and the indigenous.”
Father Zanotelli affirmed the political importance of Terra Madre. “We can no longer expect anything from above. Now it’s down to us. The economy of equality and the fair distribution of goods are values common to both the Judaic and Christian religions, and the fact that only now we are talking about the right to food is scandalous. Politics has failed because it is at the mercy of the economic rules, the multinationals. In the war against the poor, the financial world has won. Poverty is created, hunger is wanted. People don’t die from hunger, they are being killed. If I think about how much money is spent on weapons: 1,740 billion dollars around the world, 26 billion in Italy alone, and to protect what? The current living system.”
The current system is also what allows the practice of land grabbing, especially in Africa, with foreign governments and multinationals buying up large tracts of land to produce biofuels and foods destined for export. For Zanotelli, politics is fundamental: If Slow Food and Terra Madre can really manage to unite many different subjects, all sharing a common vision, then all together they could be able to push for change, like a kind of virtuous lobby.