Slow Food invited the French farmers’ association, Confédération Paysanne—small-scale farming advocate—to Cheese, the international biennial event dedicated to milk in all its shapes and forms, which this year was held from September 18–21 in Bra, Italy. During several conferences, Laurent Pinatel, spokesperson for the organization, expressed his opinion on the end of milk quotas, the TTIP and the impact this trade agreement could have on the food on our plates, as well as on the industrialization of agriculture.
Slow Food President Carlo Petrini and Laurent Pinatel established a common declaration on the occasion of their meeting:
“European agriculture is currently undergoing one of the most serious crises ever seen. The future of thousands of European farmers is currently at risk. Importantly, these destinies are tightly linked to the future of local areas, food quality and the vitality of rural and agricultural economies.
We are currently living a period where western civilization is at the brink of destruction. At these crossroads we need to decide whether we should continue to follow the path towards a form of agriculture that would transform farms into factories, leading to the extinction of small-scale farmers here and abroad. This would be a dramatic consequence, especially when considering that small-scale farming is the basis and origin of all culture. Alternatively, do we want to pursue the path of traditional agriculture that is deeply rooted in its territory, a system where humans, together the natural environment, would learn from nature and be able to nourish themselves and fellow citizens?
We cannot but state that the agricultural policies adopted in the last 40 years favor the exponential destruction of small-scale farming and of the world’s entire cultural heritage, which is embedded in this traditional system. The current crisis didn’t fall from the sky unexpectedly, it is the result of the successive reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy over the last 40 years, in particular the management of milk quotas, and the integration of agriculture and food production into the arena of global commerce. And although our networks have managed to stop certain ultra-liberal developments, we are today heavily threatened by agreements of free trade between Europe, Canada and the USA, known as TAFTA and CETA, which would lead to the complete destruction of small-scale farming.
We do not fight for and promote conservation to exhibit memories from the past. We do not resist inevitable progress because we do not want to adapt to it. On the contrary: We represent the progress that is inevitably needed for the preservation of this planet, but industrial civilization refuses to accept that. We provide solutions for a better future, solutions that are based on a holistic approach considering political, economic, social, environmental, territorial and geopolitical implications, as well as human health, energy use, climate, culture and even philosophy. If we want to guarantee our future generations a future at all, then the sector that has derogatorily been called “primary” since the eruption of our industrial societies, inescapably has to become ‘the first of all sectors’.
The industrialization of agriculture and food is, in fact, responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, if we cross the threshold of a 2°C temperature increase, the livelihoods of our farmers, the people who have the capacity to nourish the world, would be at risk. The problem of climate change does not leave us any options: we have to change the paradigm.
This is why we are calling for a radical change of course regarding agricultural and food politics and policies in order to direct the view to more promising horizons as suggested by Slow Food and Confédération Paysanne. For dozens of years, food pioneers and entrepreneurs have been choosing alternative routes to those imposed by industrialization. Solutions exist all around us; in different parts of the world creative answers have already been implemented. For us, they function as exemplary lanterns to allow us to deeply reassess and reform our agricultural and food system. We do not have to invent anything, just implement and adopt what is already in front of us!”