The Mansholt Prize Foundation, named after Sicco Mansholt (1908-95), one of the founding fathers of Europe’s common agricultural policy, was established in Amsterdam in 1996, and is funded by European Commission grants, Dutch government agencies and Dutch companies (ABN-AMRO Bank, ING Bank and Heineken Breweries). In the words of one of its founders and president of its board, Dr Dick de Zeeuw, Chancellor Emeritus of Wageningen University for Life Sciences, the aim of the biennial Sicco Mansholt Prize “ … is to honor people or organizations who, in the spirit of Sicco Mansholt, actively strive for an economically and ecologically sustainable agriculture, and to inspire others to follow suit”.
The first ever presentation of the prize was made on Thursday November 7, when president Carlo Petrini collected the award on behalf of Slow Food in the course of a special ceremony at the Dutch Embassy in Brussels. In its summing-up, the international jury, made up of Arie van den Brand (The Netherlands), David Baldock (United Kingdom), Alfredo Diana (Italy), Woutzer van Dieren (The Netherlands), Henri Nallet (France) and Heinrich Wohlmeyer (Austria), defined Slow Food as, “a worldwide movement committed to promoting the diversity of local and regional quality food produced and marketed in a way that guarantees farmers a fair price and protects the environment and the landscape”.
Welcoming guests to the ceremony, host de Zeeuw, a remarkably sprightly 78-year-old just back from a mission in Chad, described the day as “the crowning achievement of seven years of hard work”. He then called on Arie van den Brand, the chairman of the jury, to speak. Van den Brand is a Green Left Party member of the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament at the Hague. The son of a farming family, he is a former director of the Natura Foundation, an organization dedicated to nature and landscape management, and also used to work for the Dutch farmers’ association. He was thus judging in full cognition of the facts when he declared that, “We are writing history here by presenting the first Sicco Mansholt Prize to the Slow Food Movement”. He went on to develop the concept, explaining that, “Slow Food is firmly rooted in society. By promoting the quality and diversity of food, it has found an innovative and realistic way to bridge the gap between the supply side—the agricultural community—and the demand side—consumers of quality food”. So how does all this relate to the figure of Sicco Mansholt himself? “Presenting the Sicco Mansholt Prize to Slow Food is a tribute to a dilemma, so deeply felt by Mansholt in his later years, when he wanted to reconcile protection of the environment, biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystems with his long-time social-democratic ideals of securing a reasonable income for farmers. To summarize: to develop a policy of agriculture and rural areas based on ecological sustainability and social justice.” The principles that inspire the philosophy of the Slow Food Ark and Presidia projects are very similar indeed.
In the main speech of the afternoon, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, reinforced the argument, claiming that, “Sicco Mansholt’s ideas of a countryside with sound, financially viable farms that help to preserve and protect nature and the environment … are also in tune with Slow Food’s work to preserve the environment by promoting sustainable agriculture that produces a wide variety of regional and local foods”.
Prodi then called Carlo Petrini onto the stage to presented him with the award diploma. There followed a classical guitar recital by Tim van de Brug and Anthony Wongsokarijo.
Once the music was over, Carlo Petrini, speaking in French, made his acceptance speech, saying how honored he and Slow Food are to be chosen as the first ever winners of such a prestigious international award. He went on to commemorate the work of Sicco Mansholt, and once more stressed the Slow Food’s movement’s preoccupation with biodiversity and eco-sustainability. He raised laughter when he quipped that, “A gastronome who isn’t also an ecologist isn’t a gastronome, while an ecologist who isn’t a gastronome is just plain stupid!’
The next speaker, Lolle Nauta, a member of the Mansholt Prize Foundation Board and Professor Emeritus at Groningen University, also evoked the figure of Sicco Mansholt and emphasized the international dimension of the award. “The Mansholt Prize is not at all a Dutch Prize,” he argued, “notwithstanding the Dutch hospitality offered us today and notwithstanding the Dutch sponsors who support us so generously… it is neither an exclusively European prize, notwithstanding the fact that a grant of the Commission enabled us to make a start and to establish a Mansholt Prize Foundation. We are grateful that the prize was presented by the president of the European Commission, because Europe is part of the world. A good European is at the same time a citizen of the world. In the final analysis, the Mansholt Prize has a global significance and the problems the winners are dealing with are supposed to be relevant for mankind as a whole. The Mansholt Prize can in the future be awarded to a winner from a non-European country as well.”
Dick de Zeeuw rounded off proceedings by thanking all the people and organizations that contributed their time and money “to transform the Mansholt Prize from a mere dream of a few old men into reality”. “This may be the end of this award ceremony,” he concluded, “but I strongly hope and believe that it is only the beginning of a new process”.
Speaking later in the evening at a gala dinner at the Restaurant Au Repos des Chasseurs in the leafy Brussels suburb of Boitsfort, Carlo Petrini announced that Slow Food will spend the 25,000 euro prize money on the Faculty of Eco-Agriculture at the new University of Pollenzo and on one of its International Presidia projects.
John Irving is the editor of the Slow Food www.slowfood.com website
|Why the Jury picked Slow Food|
Pursuant to Section 5 of the Mansholt Prize Regulations, the Jury has decided to award the 2002 Sicco Mansholt Prize to the Slow Food Movement.
The considerations of the Jury were as follows:
1. By promoting the production and marketing of regional and local quality food, and through its practical support to achieve this goal, the Slow Food Movement has made an essential contribution to rural development in Europe. In the Movement’s vision of rural Europe, sustainable agriculture is closely interwoven with nature conservation and the protection of ecosystems.
For more information contact Roland de Ligny or Hans Scholten, Scholten de Ligny Communications, phone + 31 20 692 7340, fax + 31 20 694 3021,