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Marco Polo project at Terra Madre
Marco Polo’s journey from Italy to China in the 13th century is repeated in a project promoting research into maternal and infant health, population genetics and taste genetics.

A group of researchers, accompanied by journalists and photographers, followed in the footsteps of the Venetian explorer, leaving Italy in July 2010, crossing Eastern Europe and Asia, heading for Shanghai, the venue for Expo 2010. At each stage of the journey they collected data from more than 20 Terra Madre food communities who had been involved in sensory education initiatives using the kit “To the Origins of Taste”, created by Slow Food in 2008.

Many issues were studied during the journey, such as the genetic basis of sensory and taste perception, the consequences of climate change on native populations and documentation of local food traditions.

“Marco Polo” was presented for the first time during the world meeting of Terra Madre in 2008: two years later, at Terra Madre 2010, delegates were able to hear about this research. A stand was set up in the Oval to present to delegates the wealth of documentation gathered during the journey and a conference was also dedicated to the project.

A regional Terra Madre meeting was organized in some countries to mark the passage of the researchers. In Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan producers, cooks and students of the local Terra Madre network met to discuss local food production and the future of resources, exchange information and make suggestions.

More than 100 delegates met for the first time in Tbilisi on July 30 and 31 2010 for Terra Madre Georgia. The second day of the event was entirely dedicated to wine, since the country is considered the place where grapevines originated.

Terra Madre Azerbaijan was held on August 5: members of the network met in the village of Sis, where food communities returning from Terra Madre decided to create the first convivium in 2005. The topics discussed focused on the unprecedented disease afflicting bee colonies.

Terra Madre Kazakhstan concluded the series of regional meetings in the Caucasus: on September 2 the city of Alma Aty hosted a meeting organized in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture of the National University. It was attended by scientists from the Institute of Nutrition, the Institute of Genetics, the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Forage Production, farmers, representatives of NGOs and students.

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