Slow Food was honored to welcome the 28 European Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) on September 29th for their Informal Meeting that included speeches by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloș, the Italian Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Maurizio Martina, Slow Food President Carlo Petrini and UNISG Dean Piercarlo Grimaldi. Dacian Cioloș complimented Slow Food and the University in his warm speech by saying: “I always come here with pleasure, because it feels like home. This is because I share common beliefs with Slow Food: We both believe that tradition is very modern, that what comes from the past, from tradition, is very much in line with what we expect from the future. […] I feel that with Expo coming up in 2015, the message that Italy and Europe want to send is that tradition means future, it means modernity”.
Maurizio Martina said in his speech: “Europe has a big responsibility: leading the debate on world food security, one of the most important issues concerning the future of our planet. […] We feel the importance of our role and the need to concretely and strongly deal with the fight against hunger worldwide. It is now time to consider development policies and agricultural systems that are able to combine innovation and sustainability to meet pressing needs. Reducing food poverty is possible only if the European Union will take as a priority the implementation of target actions within a strategic framework that we have to define.”
Carlo Petrini welcomed the delegation from the European Union by saying that “The meeting of European Union Agriculture Ministers at Pollenzo is an extraordinary honor for this land, for the Slow Food association and for the University of Gastronomic Sciences.” European institutions play a great role in deciding the future of food and agriculture in the European Union, which is why Petrini concluded his speech by saying that the “European Union carries with it a huge baggage, made up of opportunities and hope, but also legitimate expectations from the rest of the planet, which looks to our market and its rules as a way of interpreting, and sometimes constructing, its own future. Guaranteeing that everyone, particularly the most vulnerable, has access to healthy, sustainably produced food that nourishes with culture and not just calories, is an achievable objective. Slow Food and the European Union can and are morally obliged to move towards this objective, first and foremost by supporting small-scale, traditional food production destined for the local market.”
After the informal discussion session, the 28 European ministers were invited to taste and learn more about traditional products from Slow Food’s European Presidia and Ark of Taste, projects to protect small-scale traditional food productions at risk of extinction. Each European country was represented by a product, with its producer on hand to explain the value and importance of these foods and to outline the social and political problems producers are confronted with in regard to their production and sale. Dessislava Dimitrova from Bulgaria, a representative of the small-scale producer network, highlighted that small-scale producers are usually excluded from the picture and that our faith stands thus in the new Common Agricultural Policy in support of small-scale farmers.
With this initiative, Slow Food hopes to have given the 28 ministers a panorama of the food biodiversity that Europe has to offer, and bring to their attention these small-scale producers who are the expression of a family agriculture that is still alive and productive today with custodians of the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, landscape and gastronomy of Europe. The aim of this meeting was further to encourage EU policy-makers from the highest level represented here to take action and pass policies that take into consideration the specific needs of small-scale producers. The products are closely linked to the local territory, culture, and traditions and are thus testimony of the distinct and unique culinary patrimony that each country has and that is worth being preserved and protected.