Slow Food at Expo

Since 1851, the Universal Exhibition has served as a stage for humanity’s most ambitious goals, an opportunity for sharing innovations, technological advances and discoveries. Every five years since then, the event has provided an opportunity to bring together citizens from around the world to address critical issues of universal interest.

From Slow Food’s perspective, no other theme is more topical than that chosen for the 2015 edition: Feeding the Planet. No other challenge is more important than ensuring nourishment for humans and the Earth: feeding the planet sustainably and protecting natural resources, safeguarding the social and economic well-being of producers and protecting people’s health, while guaranteeing good, clean and fair food for everyone. Good food, made with respect for the environment and bringing a fair income for its producer, is also the best choice for the consumer.

For Slow Food, participating in Expo means contributing the experience of an international organization that has always had a holistic vision of food and agriculture. The event represents a huge opportunity for spreading the message of the worldwide network that unites the Terra Madre food communities around the nucleus of Slow Food. We have decided to take advantage of this opportunity despite some of the problematic issues surrounding the sale and use of land for the Expo site and, crucially, the plans for the site after the event ends.

Another highly critical aspect regards the event’s participants. Expo is giving space and visibility to representatives from the world of agro-industry, which sees food as a commodity, with no concern for its cultural and spiritual value. Food as a commodity does not feed the planet, and is in fact at the origin of many of the most jarring paradoxes of our time. The most striking of all is that although the amount of food currently being produced could feed 12 billion people, double the actual population, 800 million still suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

It is precisely because of this that the presence of Slow Food and other civil society organizations is vital. We can tell a different story from the ones we hear from multinationals, agro-industrial businesses and the many government and international institutions that will also be represented at Expo. We can explain that food that feeds the planet is different. It has a soul, a story and a deep link with the land. As Carlo Petrini said, “Expo 2015 should not just be an event for consumers, but rather an opportunity to unite farmers, fishers, herders and food artisans, giving them a chance to discuss the political role of food. The stars of the event should be the people who produce our daily food.”

We invite you all to come and visit us to find out how we can feed the planet, starting with biodiversity.

Save Biodiversity, Save the Planet

Since the 1950s, the task of feeding the world’s population has increasingly been entrusted to monocultures and industrial farms, and to an ever more limited number of plant varieties and animal breeds.

According to the FAO, 60% of the calories on which the human diet is based now come from just three grains: wheat, rice and corn. Not the thousands of varieties of rice once grown in India and China, carefully selected over the centuries by farmers; nor the thousands of varieties of Mexican corn. These days, just four commercial varieties of apple—Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady—meet 90% of the world’s demand. The planet’s nourishment is increasingly based on a few selected hybrids and sold to farmers by a handful of multinationals. The picture is similar when it comes to animal production. Three species—pigs, chickens and cattle—represent the majority of the world’s meat consumption. The rest make up a tiny percentage. And the same goes for other products of animal origin. The majority of the milk we drink, for example, comes from a handful of breeds: Holstein Friesian, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey…

What has happened to the many other species and the countless local plant varieties and animal breeds we used to eat? What has happened to the Pyrenean goat or the Kholmogory goose? How about Bath Cos lettuce or Öland Island brown beans?

Many of these have been lost forever. The FAO has calculated that 75% of the plant varieties selected by humans no longer exist. Others are at risk of extinction. A few are being salvaged, thanks in part to Slow Food, who realize the vital importance of protecting domestic biodiversity, also known as agrobiodiversity. Saving biodiversity is about more than saving the panda or the monk seal. It is also about saving the Karakachan sheep. Not just edelweiss, but also the Bamberger Hörnla potato. We cannot afford to lose this immense wealth, one of our most precious common resources.

Some might question the value of focusing on plant varieties and animal breeds, which might seem insignificant in a global context. But Slow Food believes that we should not just be asking how we can feed the planet, but asking how we can feed it while guaranteeing that everyone has access to good, clean and fair food. For us, the only possible answer is by starting from biodiversity.

There are many reasons for this:

  • local varieties and breeds have adapted to their local areas, becoming stronger and more resistant and requiring fewer external interventions (pesticides, fertilizers, veterinary care, etc.)

  • uniform or biodiversity-poor systems are more fragile and highly vulnerable to unexpected events

  • there are no monocultures in nature; it is nature that can show us the best way to feed the planet

  • biodiversity is also a priceless source of medicinal remedies

  • biodiversity guarantees the well-being of rural communities, who are free to choose what to produce and be able to earn a decent income from their harvest

  • by cultivating and eating biodiversity, we learn how to fight waste, to respect the seasons, to safeguard traditional knowledge and bring it into dialogue with official science: by starting from biodiversity we can imagine a different model of development, one that is truly sustainable

Talking about biodiversity means talking about sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and access to good, clean and fair food for everyone.

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Our Projects

Are we really sure that biodiversity can feed the planet? Do we have proof, evidence, examples? Slow Food, in part thanks to the work of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, wants to show that this is not a utopia, but a reality that exists, with many different facets, all over the world.

A is for the Ark of Taste.

The Ark of Taste travels the world, collecting foods that belong to the culture, history and traditions of the whole planet. This extraordinary heritage is made up of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats. The Ark of Taste highlights the existence of these foods and the risk that they might disappear, inviting everyone to do something to save them. Sometimes they need to be bought and eaten, sometimes they need to be communicated and their producers supported, and sometimes, if they are wild species at serious risk of extinction, it is better to eat less of them or not eat them at all. Thanks to nominations from the Slow Food network and the work of 23 international commissions, 2,500 products from 120 countries have been catalogued so far.

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C for the Chefs’ Alliance.

By working with small-scale producers, chefs can become crucial allies in the protection and promotion of biodiversity. The network of Slow Food chefs was started in Italy and is now gradually spreading elsewhere. So far the Alliance project has been launched in the Netherlands, Morocco and Mexico, where it also involves food communities and local food producers.

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E is for Earth Markets.

The Earth Markets involve small-scale food producers and are managed collectively by the producers themselves, along with local public authorities and organizations, Slow Food convivia, citizens and restaurateurs. Only local, seasonal foods are available at the Earth Markets, produced using sustainable, artisanal techniques and sold at prices that are fair for the consumers and the producers. To date there are 45 Earth Markets in 10 countries.

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N is for Narrative Label.

The narrative label is an additional label for food products, formulated by the producer in collaboration with the Slow Food Foundation. The label provides specific information about the producer, their business, the plant varieties or animal breeds they use, farming and processing techniques, animal welfare and place of origin.

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P is for Presidia.

The Presidia support small-scale traditional foods (fruit and vegetable varieties, animal breeds, cured meats, cheeses, honeys, etc.), save production techniques (cultivation, processing, animal farming or fishing) and protect rural landscapes at risk of disappearing. They directly involve small-scale producers who are willing to work together to collectively decide on a production protocol and how to promote their products. The Presidia preserve ancient knowledge, promote sustainable techniques and represent concrete examples of sustainable local development. To date there are over 450 Presidia in more than 50 countries around the world, involving over 10,000 farmers, fishers, herders and food artisans.

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T for Ten Thousand Gardens in Africa.

Slow Food has created a network of young people who are working to save African biodiversity, promote the traditional knowledge of communities and add value to family farming and small-scale agriculture. By creating food gardens in villages, schools and on the outskirts of cities, communities are rediscovering the value of local food, which is healthier, more nutritious and tastier than imported industrial products packed with salt, fat, sugar and additives that are increasingly flooding African markets. The 10,000 Gardens project is a practical tool for changing the future of agriculture and the future of food in Africa.

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T is for Terra Madre.

Across the world, local communities are being oppressed by the global market and unchecked development. Across the world, subsistence farming and small-scale farmers are undervalued, often seen as unproductive or a throwback to the past. Across the world, natural resources are being depleted or damaged by exploitation, pollution and agriculture that clash with nature. Slow Food fostered the development of the Terra Madre network, which meets every two years in Turin. The network offers effective solutions to these problems; solutions that start from the specific nature of local places, from the preservation of plant varieties and animal breeds, and from local culinary cultures that, over time, have allowed natural resources to be protected, not depleted. The Terra Madre network is a living example of how the planet can be fed without using up its wealth.

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