Carlo Petrini, 73, in Sao Paulo on the stage at Mesa SP, the most important cooking congress in Brazil
‘I will speak in Italian because I want what I say to be clear. I am happy to return to Brazil, a country I love. I came here for the first time in 1981: it had half the population of today. After the pandemic, here I am again'. This was the soft beginning of a 40-minute speech with which Carlo Petrini drew open applause from the audience at the Espaço Unimed in São Paulo, the scenic venue of Mesa, the most important congress in South America's most populous country. Here are the key passages.
'The theme chosen this year by my friend Georges Schnyder [curator of Mesa] is the kitchen of embrace. We must recover dialogue, willingness to listen, fraternity, essential values to realise the ideals of freedom and justice. And oppose the logic of economic liberalism, which only privileges the rich. In the recent electoral contest in this country, we took a position from the outset: we are Lulists'. The audience applauds. ‘And we are aware that this new historical phase demands a new behaviour. Cultural, political, social.’
He continues: 'Let's say it loud and clear: the global food system does not work. It is a criminal system and we must do everything to change it. With determination and capacity to make an impact. With dynamics that must involve millions of people'. Why doesn't the system work? asks the Slow Food founder: 'Because 800 million people, in fact 900 million after the pandemic, suffer from malnutrition. And there are still people dying of starvation, a disgrace for the whole of humanity. A disgrace in the 21st century. At the same time 1.7 billion people suffer from overeating. That generates childhood obesity and cardiovascular diseases, caused by over-processed food'.
But there’s also food waste: 'We produce the equivalent of food for 12 billion living beings. But there are 7.8 billion of us on Earth: that means 30 per cent of food is thrown away. We are talking about 1.5 billion tonnes of food [he underlines the figure several times]. Which takes up 1 billion hectares of fertile land. One billion hectares and 250 trillion litres of water to produce food that we then throw away. A great problem, the greatest shame, an enormous drama'.
There’s more: 'Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have lost 60% of our biodiversity: plant species and animal breeds. An enormous heritage that our ancestors entrusted to us and that we will not leave to the new generations. Once again, the culprit of this tragedy is the food system, which privileges strong animal breeds and abandons those that are not very productive. Just think that of the entire planetary diversity of the bird kingdom, 70% is farmed poultry. Madness, madness, madness. And let’s not think of how they are bred. It’s a criminal system, which we must change with all our might'.
The auditorium of the Espaço Unimed in São Paulo, home of Mesa
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.