Laurels For the Defense Of Biodiversity

Yesterday, the city of Porto played host to a very special ceremony: the Slow Food Award for individuals who work in the defense of biodiversity. I tend to avoid talking the activities of the movement I lead in the press; I don’t like vaunting the achievements of the movement and promoting myself in this manner. Now I want to tell all though, precisely because the experience of the Slow Food Award was packed with people and personalities that merit our attention. The Award exalts the noble values of humble people, not those of academics, world-famous investigators or jet-set personalities. They are all normal people who have simply done their job with conscience and good sense: the Guinean agronomists, the Mexican and Indian peasants, the South Korean fishermen, the South African animal researcher, the Chilean engineer and the eight other amazing protagonists of yesterday’s Award.

The great topics of the future – a peaceful future, we hope – will be related to globalization and its economic and environmental repercussions. We are fighting to restore dignity to field labor and humble work around the world in order to ensure that the traditions and crops that contribute to the heritage of our planet are not lost. This is a pivotal moment: if we do not choose the right road, we will never be able to turn back. From its very conception two years ago, the Slow Food Award has been making this point forcefully, and fighting for these goals. In both the opening assembly of 2000, when 500 jurors from 80 nations gathered in Bologna, and in this equally evocative Award ceremony in Porto, the cry for change has been forceful and moving.

This year, our international network of jurors proposed approximately 500 candidates: each and every one was valid and wonderful. The choice of the 14 finalists was difficult and at times torturous. A choice such as this one – among 500 people who work to promote biodiversity that goes against the prevalent trend in our global village – could not be anything but difficult. When we began the Slow Food Award project, we did not expect to find such a shared perspective among inhabitants from all corners of the known world. This common point of view reinforces the conviction that we are not alone in saying that agriculture must be rethought, and that we must abandon our chimeric vision of a highly-productive system that does not improve the general quality of life – a fact which holds true for both wealthy and poor nations. We are not alone in seeing the negative effects of the actions of many multi-national companies, and we will express our opinions with civility and through the use of right to choose.

I encourage you to read the biographies of the 14 Award winners – they have led extraordinary lives, and have often confronted incredibly challenging situations. The Award winners are people who have promoted the goals that we try to develop here at Slow Food, and through the initiative they receive much-needed support and the international recognition that they so deserve. The projects that the Award winners develop are the clearest and most forceful ‘No!’ that we can say to a globalization that none of us want.

The names of the Award winners are: Thierno Maadjou Bah and Mamadou Mouctar Sow (Guinea), the Amal Cooperative (Morocco), Noel Honeyborne (South Africa), Carlos Lewis (Argentina), Pablo Jara (Chile), Doña Sebastina Juarez Broca (Mexico), Adriana Valcarcel (Perù), Organización Chuyma Aru (Perù), Kuang Choon Rew (South Korea), Bija Devi (India), Predrag Peca Petrovic (Serbia), Necton – Companhia Portuguesa de Culture Marinhas (Portugal), Marie Noëlle Anderson (Switzerland) and the poppy growers of Ismailkoy (Turkey).

I want to cite them all, even though I do not have the space here to do describe their work in full. I want to tell you about how precious and wonderful their work is, and about the amazing things they have created. I want to tell you this not only because it is the minimum that they deserve but because it seems the simplest way of thanking them on behalf of us all. We owe them that thanks.

Carlo Petrini

from La Stampa 14/10/2001

(adapted by Anya Fernald)

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