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Biodiversity at Terra Madre

One of the key themes at Terra Madre and the Salone del Gusto was the protection of biodiversity

Safeguarding food biodiversity for the future is one of the fundamental principles of the Slow Food association and the entire Terra Madre network is engaged in defending local food and outstanding products that are perfectly integrated with the geographical, climactic, cultural and traditional characteristics of a place. Biodiversity is one of the eight points of the food policies document that was developed during Terra Madre and presented to decision makers by communities around the world.

The variety of natural environments and living plant and animal species that populate our planet is declining. Over the course of a century 300,000 plant varieties have become extinct and they continue to die out at the rate of one every six hours. Every year 17 million hectares of forest disappear, an area equivalent to the size of Austria. Since the start of the 20th century we have lost 75% of genetic diversity from agricultural products and today fewer than 30 plants feed 95% of the global population. Of all the livestock breeds farmed in Europe at the start of the last century, half have disappeared and a third of the remaining 770 risk extinction in the next 20 years.

Slow Food and the Terra Madre network are working to safeguard the diversity of the plant varieties and animal breeds that are part of our diet. To lose a breed means forever losing a unique and irreplaceable genetic heritage, the result of millennia of selection by humans and the natural environment. It also means losing the flavors of a place, because a breed means meat, milk, cured meats and cheeses. The abandonment of native breeds in favor of more productive animals always brings a sensory shift: The link with a place becomes weaker, the resulting product is more ordinary and often quality is diminished. Even more seriously, at times a different raw material renders traditional processing techniques ineffective, and so products are lost along with the breeds.

To protect food biodiversity, Slow Food has developed the Ark of Taste and the Presidia, projects that support quality small-scale products at risk of extinction, promote places, recover traditional crafts and skills and save native breeds and ancient fruit and vegetable varieties from extinction.

Biodiversity at the Salone del Gusto (Lingotto Fiere):

Since the first hundred were presented at the 2000 Salone del Gusto, the number of Presidia around the world has grown to over 300.

The Salone was an opportunity to assess all the association’s on-going activities. On October 25th, for example, the International Ark of Taste Commission, chaired by Didier Chabrol, met at 10 am in the Sala Avorio to take stock of the project, reflecting on the products selected so far, selection criteria and future objectives. Representatives from 14 countries participated.
Several of the conferences open to the Salone’s visitors explored biodiversity protection. The complete program can be found online at www.salonedelgusto.com

Biodiversity at Terra Madre (Oval):

Representatives from the Earth Markets and all the Slow Food Presidia took part in Terra Madre, including those who did not have a stand at the Salone del Gusto because their product was not available.
At the Oval, one room was dedicated to presenting the network’s projects to safeguard biodiversity and promote food and taste education. The Slow Food projects room gave delegates the opportunity to learn about current activities in over 150 countries and at the same time report on the initiatives in which they are involved.
The Slow Food Projects Room also hosted several conferences open to Terra Madre visitors and specifically linked to biodiversity protection issues:

Friday October 22 – 3 pm Oval – Slow Food Projects Room
Products of Origin: An Opportunity for African Agriculture
The Slow Food Foundation, in collaboration with the FAO, is mapping the traditional products of four African countries: Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. The producers themselves presented the biodiversity of their homeland at Terra Madre, from baobab fruit to fonio, from kola nuts to kram kram.
Organized with the help of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Development Cooperation and the FAO Food Security Fund, “Inter Country Coordination for West Africa Food Security” project GTFS/SIL/O28/ITA

Saturday October 23 – 2 pm Oval – Slow Food Projects Room
The Importance of Leaves to Africa’s Food Sovereignty: From Tradition to Modernity
From the leaves of Moringa stenopetala (a native Ethiopian tree central to the culture of the Konso people) to cowpea leaves, used in local African cuisines and an excellent addition to children’s diet, producers and consumers presented the different uses of leaves and their importance to food sovereignty in Africa.

Saturday 23 October – 3 pm Oval – Slow Food Projects Room
Good, Clean and Fair Fish: An International Slow Food Campaign
Bluefin tuna is on the verge of extinction, whilst wild salmon, swordfish and Atlantic cod stocks are seriously threatened. Over the last 30 years fish consumption has doubled and fishing has expanded to become a gigantic industry. Aquaculture is no solution, because most farmed fish are fed with meal made from wild fish.
So what should we do? Stop eating fish? No, but each one of us can still help the situation by making the right choices when buying seafood. This is why Slow Food has launched the international Slow Fish campaign, which was presented at Terra Madre 2010.
Organized with the help of the Lighthouse Foundation.

Sunday October 24 – 10 am Oval – Slow Food Projects Room
Small Communities Protect Biodiversity
In Capriglio, the life of one community has been revitalized thanks to a small pepper. The inhabitants of the village of Cortereggio have pulled together to save a historic bean, grown along the Orco River. In Orbassano, a type of purple celery has revived the vegetable gardens that once produced food for the city of Turin. In the Orobic Alps, small-scale producers of stracchino cheese have re-established the primacy of an ancient tradition after it was devalued by industrial production. A cooperative in the Brembana Valley is producing small Agrì cheeses, kneaded like gnocchi.
The Italian Presidia were joined by 22 new projects, small examples of good Italian agriculture.
Followed by a tasting of traditional stracchino from the Orobic valleys and Valtorta Agrì, both Slow Food Presidia.

Within the Oval, an interactive educational activity on biodiversity was open to all Terra Madre visitors. Here it was possible to get a better understanding of what terms like “native varieties and breeds” and “traditional techniques” mean. Information was presented on the loss of biodiversity at an international level, good practices for sustainable agriculture and extensive farming techniques. The itinerary included pictures, games, quizzes and tastings.
The first section was dedicated to plant varieties, using a hundred apples of different shapes and colors to represent different cultures and flavors. It was explained how this irreplaceable genetic heritage is the result of the slow adaptation of varieties to a specific place. Alongside the apples was a display of the five most commonly available varieties on supermarket shelves around the world.
The second section featured animal breeds. The Friesian cow, which produces 80% of all the milk sold in Europe, was shown next to traditional native breeds.
Visitors learned about the importance of place, promoted by small-scale production and erased by industry. Honey exemplified the link between food and place, with tasting samples from all over the world.
This was followed by a section on humans, the origin of every food product, with their artisanal knowledge and skill in transforming raw materials. Food was presented as something of cultural value, as a crossroads of landscapes and traditions. After a look at the sustainability of products and packaging, the journey finished with a map of all the Presidia.

The sensory program aimed to explain food biodiversity to producers and co-producers using the example of the transalpine territory and the emblematic products of this region located between France and Italy.
This activity was cofunded by the European Union, European Fund for Regional Development - ALCOTRA Program 2007-2013, as part of PROMO TERROIR Project.

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