Thoughts on Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto 2012, Beyond Prop 37

I had the great privilege of attending Slow Food’s Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto, held in Torino from Oct.25-29, 2012. For those who are not familiar with the organization and the world-wide convention that is held in that magnificent city bi-annually, please click here- Terra Madre

For me, going to Torino is going home, as that is the city where I was born, in an apartment that is literally steps away from Porta Palazzo, the largest open-air market in all of Europe  (my brother owns that apartment now!)

It’s no coincidence then that I grew up enjoying the best and freshest food available on a daily basis, usually prepared by my grandmother who was from Puglia and my mother, a great cook who has also adopted some Piedmontese culinary traditions along the way. Add to this mix my father’s Neapolitan origins and it’s no surprise then, that following a long career in the airline field, I would devote my attention and efforts to creating  food & wine travel experiences.

Growing up with wholesome food had an immense impact on me, even as my family eventually moved to the US, where 46 years ago genuine Italian food products and ingredients were not readily available.  In spite of that, our culinary traditions continued consistently throughout the years, traditions that I honored later in my life as I raised my own children.

Artichoke Stand at Porta Palazzo
Artichoke Stand at Porta Palazzo

Alas, this culinary tradition is not something that everyone has had the fortune to rely upon and as a result, particularly in the US, many people are left to make choices based on what’s being “advertised” as “healthy” and “wholesome”, leading many consumers to buy foods of dubious provenance and nutritional value.

Going back to Terra Madre, indeed food provenance, pedigree and clarity about our food supply, were the main focus of many conferences and workshops, during which the issue of “seeds”, particularly those that are genetically modified, took center stage and were the topics that I focused on during TM.

Now I am not a scientist and not a particularly militant person, but this issue has truly raised my antennas to what I see as a developing and disturbing trend toward obfuscating the truth about the food that is being packaged and sold to unsuspecting consumers the world over. Yes it’s our own individual responsibility to make sure we are informed and selective consumers, but how are we to do that if the FDA, the multinationals and their lobbyists are hell-bent in hiding the truth?

During TM, it was incredibly heartening to see the amount of efforts and devotion that local, small, artisanal and in many instances very young producers, who with the support of Slow Food have managed to bring back and keep alive ancient, sustainable farming practices and in the process, bring back to life ancient seeds that would have become extinct had it not for their collective efforts.

It would be impossible and not within my scope to report on every conference that dealt with this subject, and to be sure, I don’t feel that I have the right credentials to express in a clear and concise way the scientific research that so many gifted and eloquent speakers shared with the audience; however, below are some of the key points that we should all ponder and make our own determination about as to where our own efforts and opinions should lead each one of us.


Iranian Radija Razavi Speaking at Terra Madre Against GMOs

Indeed, perhaps farming practices that utilize GMOs were probably essential in some extreme cases where, had it not been for increased yields, many people, particularly in third-world countries, would have faced starvation. On that basis, the efforts of the scientists and the investments of the multinationals in developing these “super seeds” were and probably will still be of immeasurable benefit. However, as each crisis is being conquered and the long-term, ill effects that these genetically altered seeds have been known to inflict have been determined-i.e. depleting the environment’s resources, lower protein and higher carbohydrates content thus promoting obesity and diabetes for example- the time has now come to reverse these practices, to regain food sovereignty and demand our right to know as consumers and human beings what we choose to put on our tables.

Words from Terra Madre 2012

“The new battle for life,” is how Marcello Buiatti of the University of Florence described the current situation, in which seeds are patented and soils “doped” with chemicals, causing the decline of biodiversity and complete dependency on a handful of multinationals. “Seed monopoly is the new colonialism,” said Ahmad Taheri from Iran. “There are very severe laws against doping in sport,” he added, “so how com there are none when it comes to the soil where our food grows?”

  • Freedom of seeds
  • Food sovereignty is a gift from the creator and Mother Earth
  • Everything is a spiritual being including seeds, the beginning of all life and not the invention of the multi-nationals
  • Seeds are life and cannot be sold or brought
  • We must control seeds, whoever controls seeds controls food & freedom
  • One must speak of seeds if speaking of food
  • Seeds are key to food sovereignty, health, ecology
  • Seeds are a loan from the past generations and must be passed on to future generation
  • Genetically modified sees are barren and cannot propagate
  • Life is a maze of connections, so if we change one link, we destroy the chain
  • Life in biosphere lives due to diversity
  • No plant diversity=no human diversity=death
  • Allow plants to go to seed to allow plants to adapt to their environment
  • Hybrid sees cannot be replanted thus do not acquire the ability to adapt to their local environment as indigenous  seeds do and as a monoculture, could fall prey to diseases and be wiped out with no back up crop
  • Science is playing with life without knowing the consequences- to automate life is to kill it
  • 75% of seeds are controlled by 5 multinationals
  • There are laws against doping in sports i.e. Armstrong, but no laws against doping of seeds
  • Multinationals should be liable for doping of seeds and poisoning the environment
  • Laws in land (Italy) criminalize diversity by preventing the exchange of indigenous seeds amongst farmers.

Please see below useful links leading to more detailed information about the various conferences and speakers.

Also look out for my next blog post on clear and informative labeling and the defeat of Prop. 37 in California: Appalled by the defeat of Prop. 37 in California which was hoped would be the trend to be followed across the US, how can we as concerned and relatively informed consumers carry on with the task of making the FDA,  multinationals, lobbyists and our political leaders such as they are, respond to what is a consumer’s right, to know what is contained in the products that we purchase?

Critical Issues Discussed at Terra Madre:

Alice Waters:

Rachel Hennessy-Forbes

Standing up for Indigenous Food Systems:

That’s a Wrap: Overview of conferences and articles from Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto 2012

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto 2012, Beyond Prop 37

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