Biodiversity Feeds the Planet

There are only two months to go until the opening of Expo 2015. Since 1851 the Universal Exhibition has been the stage for our civilization’s most ambitious goals, a place to share innovation, technological advances and discoveries. Since then, this occasion to bring the world’s citizens together has taken place every five years.


This year the 140 countries and international organizations involved expect more than 20 million visitors to discuss highly important topics of universal interest. And no other topic is more important, in Slow Food’s opinion, than food, nutrition, and the need to guarantee access to good, clean, and fair food for everyone, hence the theme, “Feeding the planet.”


But feeding the planet needs to be done so sustainably, guaranteeing the protection of natural resources and the social and economic well-being of producers. Food that is good, produced with respect for the environment, and which guarantees adequate retribution for the producers is also in the best interests of the consumers.


For Slow Food, participating in Expo means sharing the experience of our movement with a huge number of people. Indeed, Slow Food has always concerned itself with topics of food and agriculture, taking on a holistic approach to the problems therein, and so Expo is a great opportunity to spread our message. We have decided to take up this opportunity notwithstanding some reservations we hold, such as the sale of the land that is being used to host the event, overbuilding, and not least, the important questions about the future use of this site once the event has ended.


Another problematic element has to do with the protagonists of the event itself. Indeed, the world of agribusiness will have space and visibility at the event: those who see food as a commodity, as merchandise, and who strip it of all cultural and spiritual value. This vision of food does not help feed the planet, and is also the base of one of the greatest paradoxes of our time: we produce enough food to feed 12 billion people, and yet 850 million are still malnourished.


This is why the presence of Slow Food and other civil society organizations is necessary. We must let them know that the food that feeds the planet is different; it’s food with a soul, a heart and a history. As Carlo Petrini has said, “Expo 2015 will not simply be a fair for the consumers, but an opportunity to bring together farmers, fishers, shepherds and artisans, giving them the chance to discuss the political role of food. The event’s protagonists ought to be those who produce our daily meals.”


Slow Food will have a lot of space available at the Expo: 3,500m2 in the international area, at the end of the Decumano, the path that crosses the entire site from west to east, near one of the main entrances and next to a large Mediterranean Hill covered in fig, olive, and citrus trees. The design and construction of the hill were done by the studio Herzog & de Meuron, a prestigious name that interpreted our philosophy perfectly and translated the concept of sustainability through architecture. Slow Food’s space will be made up, in fact, of three wooden structures which are reminiscent of the farmsteads typical of Lombardy’s rural landscape. At the end of the event these structures can easily be taken down and used elsewhere.


The space will be divided in three main areas, all of which are free to visit. The first building is dedicated to an exhibitive and educational path in stages, which includes photographs, videos, interactive games and installations dedicated to the association’s founding principles: the safeguarding of biodiversity; agriculture which is sustainable, local, and small-scale; the right to food that is good, clean, and fair; the fight against monocultures, intensive farming, and food waste.


From theory we move on to practice: The second area allows visitors to discover biodiversity through dairy. Visitors can discover the biodiversity of different animal breeds and species through their milks and cheeses – the fruit also of generations of dairy farmers’ knowledge- which will be available to taste. Visitors can buy a sample of tastings that will change every week (with four different kinds of cheeses, both Italian and European), accompanied by a glass of wine (the wine bar will be provided by the Pollenzo Wine Bank).


The third area is dedicated to workshops, conferences, exhibitions, meetings with the producers and much more, as well as an information area to get to know Slow Food better and to read through our publications, or to participate in a game about understanding the different qualities of milk. Finally, in the central space there will be several gardens arranged, which will help to recount one of the Slow Food’s central projects. The community and school gardens that Slow Food is helping build will represent some of the most important themes for the future of food: sustainability; the safekeeping of local seeds; the promotion of fresh, seasonal local foods; the necessity of bringing the city and the country closer together; the pleasure in reinstating a relationship with the land; the exchange of ideas between generations; etc.


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