With the theme of the Expo Milano 2015 being ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, many were quick to point out that this sponsorship announcement was jarring to say the least.
With the Expo aimed at raising awareness about sustainability, food waste and healthy living, it is no wonder that the decision has been criticised by many. To understand this contradiction you may want to read further below what the Milan Expo is about.
Slow Food were quick to point out the contradiction. They said that “we continue to believe that in order to feed the planet, it is essential that we consider social and economic sustainability, in terms of access to good, clear food that is fair for all. We also continue to believe that multinationals cannot in any way represent solutions as to how to nourish the planet.”
Unfortunately, we are living in times where such contradictions are very common. Nothing like the banking crisis a few years ago has pinpointed how we live in times where money is more important that ethics or principles. This is clearly a prime example where unfortunately money talks.
There have been repeated stories over the past years of farmers who have been exploited, of farming communities that have disappeared under the weight of mass agriculture.
Looking at the food scandals that have emerged over the past few years or the incredible increase in obesity in many Western countries, we need to rethink many things. An Expo which aims to raise awareness about these issues, while at the same time putting multinationals which seem to be part of the problem in the spotlight, sends the wrong message to the millions who will flock to Milan for this event.
The discussion needs to go back to the basics. It needs to start with raising awareness and educating everyone about these basics. Sending confusing messages is not the way.
We need to consider what following the seasons really means, we need to learn how to make best use of the ingredients we have, to ensure that food is not wasted or thrown away and we need to rediscover the ‘poor techniques’ of the past to preserve foods. We also need to learn to use all the cuts from animals to ensure that nothing goes to waste. We produce enough to feed the planet, yet over 1 billion tonnes of food go to waste each year.
Over the past months, we have become much more aware about food waste and also tried to showcase the work being carried out by some of the world’s best chefs who are using fermentation techniques to preserve food. We think that these techniques need to become mainstream in future.
We looked at the experiments being carried out by Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen. We discovered the work by Jonnie Boer of De Librije in The Netherlands who has been working with fermentation techniques for many years. We were equally enthusiastic by our visits to Gert De Mangeleer of Hertog Jan and Sang Hoon Degeimbre of L’Air du Temps. They were not only growing their own produce but they ferment it to be used during the winter months in full respect of the seasons.
We were equally stunned by the story of Isabel Soares in Portugal who started to buy vegetables which the farmers could not sell to supermarkets because they did not have the perfect shape. And despite the odds, this venture took off.
We’ve also learnt about how certain parts of ingredients that are normally thrown away can be used in every day cooking (broccoli stems, cauliflower leaves and vegetable skins among others).
And we cannot help but admire the lesson that will be imparted by Massimo Bottura who will use the waste that is generated in the Milan Expo pavilions to feed poor people in Milan together with some of the world’s best chefs. It’s an example that needs to be followed by many.
Our only hope is that among the many millions who will visit the expo, the majority will at least come out understanding this contradiction.
Some information on the Milan Expo from the website of the event:
The Milan Expo will be open from 1 May to 31 October. Over the six-month period, 140 countries will be participating and will show the best of their technology with the aim of guaranteeing healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium.