Not so fast! Italians promote ‘Slow Food

25 Oct 2002 | English

Friday, October 25, 2002 – This is the week of Slow Food. Today, more than 125,000 people are expected at the Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy, to celebrate the movement and its progress. It boasts 65,000 members in 45 countries. And Colorado has chapters, of course.

Slow Food started in Italy as a humorous protest against McDonald’s when the American burger chain opened the arches at Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. Slow down, said founder Carlo Petrini. Enjoy life, enjoy eating, smell the truffles.

The past 15 years, Slow Food has morphed into something more serious and political. Supporting Slow Food is more than supporting a reflective lifestyle and appetite.

At the heart of the Slow Food are two drives:

The Ark of Taste, which identifies and protects endangered foods and food preparations.

The Presidium, which attempts to save endangered food through direct economic intervention, lobbying and re-education.

But there’s more on the Slow Food plate.

In a handsome new cookbook The Pleasures of Slow Food (Chronicle, $40), author Corby Kummer outlines the history and aims of the movement, and touches on globalization as a worldwide threat. He does admit the movement began when most of right-thinking, left-leaning Italy looked at a McDonald’s in Italy with horror.

It’s the political stance of Slow Food that makes me boil. It’s an agenda disguised as a good meal. Can’t these people just stay in the kitchen?

Take the complex issue of genetically modified foods. Says Petrini to a Washington Post reporter: We need more research that shows that genetically modified foods don’t hurt our physical health or the environment. Until that’s done, there should be a full-out moratorium.

Tuesday’s New York Times business section led with a related story, how the National Rice Research Institute in China had developed a rice that’s resilient and tasty, immune to the toxic effects of herbicides – but it’s not widely planted in China because the government has imposed restriction of genetically modified crops. The reasons go beyond food safety to trade protection and are too complex to address here. The point is, the people of China are not looking for an old-world farmer to make them artesian cheeses. They don’t care about fresh basil from Boulder. They don’t want to starve!

I agree with George McGovern. It’s probably true that affluent countries can afford to reject scientific agriculture and pay more for foods produced by the so-called natural methods, he writes in The Third Freedom. But 800 million poor, chronically hungry people in Asia, Africa and Latin America cannot afford such foods If further efforts to bring the advantages of science to developing countries are thwarted by ill-advised critics, millions of poor people will pay the painful price – perhaps the ultimate sacrifice of life itself.


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