They prefer ‘slow food’ to fast food. They buy fruit and vegetables directly from the farm. They put raw cane sugar in their coffee. These organic aficionados have declared a war on additives, industrial farming and GM (Genetically Modified) crops.
Founded by Carlo Petrini in Paris in 1986, Slow Food is an international organization that aims to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of fast food lifestyle. Slow food promotes the gastronomic culture. It develops taste education through a variety of initiatives, promotes the value of biodiversity in agriculture and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction. The organisation currently boasts a membership of over 82,000 and has offices in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, France and Japan, as well representatives in 107 different countries.
Cittadinanzattiva, is a civic movement created in 1978, working for the promotion and protection of the rights of European citizens and consumers, including some 235 local groups and a membership of over 76,000. One of its most recent initiatives is ’Friendly Catering’, which monitors and assesses contract catering services, such as meals provided in schools, hospitals and residences for the elderly.
Greenpeace aso has a keen interest in the GM issue. It is campaigning against it on an international level. The group is currently fighting for the introduction of mandatory labelling for food produced from animals which have been fed GM food. Greenpeace activists are fighting furthermore against the uneccessary use of pesticides and loss of biodiversity.
Solidarity Buyers Group, or Gruppi di acquisto solidale (Gas), are an Italian organisation set up by consumers who buy fruit and vegetables directly from farmers to the benefit of small producers and therefore the environment. This trend has been a growing one for some years now in Italy. The Gas groups now unite to buy wholesale food or other commonly used goods, for redistribution amoungst themselves.
On the European front
The campaign for food safety, is an EU Directorate-General with a full representation from the agricultural sector and consumer associations. The objective is to work to guarantee good quality standards, especially given that in many cases standards and regulations for food quality have settled at a fairly low level. If the quality levels required by the 25 EU member states are found to differ, the reality is that it is easier to set the benchmark at the lowest one. For the same reason, the European Food Information Council (Eufic), a European not-for-profit organization founded in 1993 to inform European consumers about the nutritional quality and safety of food, collaborates with national and international institutions that deal with nutrition and health. Among the initiatives of Eufic is the animated website Cool food, designed to teach children the basics of a healthy diet and a good lifestyle and Food Students, an interactive site about food production and safety, and new technologies in this area.