European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety: Choosing Slow Food is a Choice of Ethics and Sustainability

“Terra Madre is asking us to preserve the Planet. Choosing between Fast Food and Slow Food is our choice, it is a choice of ethics and sustainability,” said European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis at the opening ceremony of the 12th edition of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. During the first day of the event, the commissioner addressed issues concerning food waste and the use of antibiotics in farms, and engaged in a dialogue with citizens. Terra Madre Salone del Gusto was opened on September 20, in Turin, Italy, and will continue until September 24.

A Scandal of the Century

“Food waste is a 21st century scandal,” said Mr Andriukaitis at the thematic forum Fighting Food Waste with intelligence and creativity. The fact that European consumers waste between 95 and 115 kg of food per year, while millions go to bed hungry, is “unacceptable”.

Mr Andriukaitis stressed the importance of enabling consumers to change their behavior when it comes to food waste. “We need creative alternatives, accessible solutions, relevant to reality,” said the Commissioner, mentioning “Disco soup” events run by “Slow Food” as a good example of that. “I would like to take this occasion to publicly praise the great work that ‘Slow Food’ is doing in this field,” added Mr. Andriukaitis.

Among several solutions to fight food waste, EU Health and Food Safety chief distinguished food donations. The Commission has promoted this idea for the past few years. A number of non-governmental organizations, including Slow Food, believe, however, that food donations do not tackle food waste fundamentally and address symptoms rather than causes.

The EU has committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to reduce food waste by half by 2030. According to Mr Andriukaitis, the Commission will consider establishing EU-wide food waste reduction targets, to be met by the targeted year. Disappointingly however, the targets were not included in a recently approved waste framework directive.

Antimicrobial Resistance: a Growing Threat

During the forum dedicated to Antibiotic Resistance, the Commissioner called for a stop to the unnecessary and inappropriate use of antibiotics in farming, saying that “AMR will only get worse in the future if we do not inspire change in the present.”

In the EU alone, Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is linked to 25,000 deaths a year.  In 2006, the EU imposed one of the first bans on antibiotics in feed additives for livestock, leading other countries to do the same. Last year, it introduced a new EU action plan, which aims to help the Member States to deliver innovative, effective, and sustainable responses to AMR. Civil society, however, expects more concrete and urgent action to be taken.

Fruitful Encounters

During a packed day, Mr Andriukaitis met for a constructive dialogue with the Italian minister of Agriculture Gian Marco Centinaio and Slow Food President Carlo Petrini, calling the latter the best teacher and guiding light for slow food.

Commissioner also had a lively debate with citizens at the Convention Waste and Food Security in the EU. During the debate, a range of different opinions were heard regarding critical issues such as GMOs, pesticides, food waste, and new planting techniques. Despite disagreements, the debate reinforced the importance of providing a venue for citizens and policy-makers to exchange thoughts on critical issues such as food and its safety, in search of a consensus.

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food International

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