S alone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2012 was opened in the Palaolimpico stadium in Turin with an epic feast of speakers, music and spectacle in front of an audience of food communities, volunteers and the public. This morning, an inauguration at the Lingotto exhibition center marked the official opening of the event to visitors.

Da Silva

The opening speech was given by the Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva. He emphasized the close links between Slow Food and the FAO, with a focus on the problem of hunger in the world. “We can unite our forces in the fight for sufficient food for everyone,” he said. He identified food waste as a crucial problem. “If we managed to cut total food loss and waste by half we would have enough food to feed 1 billion more people,” he said. Da Silva’s message was clear: “With hunger, the only number acceptable is zero.”

A series of speakers then took their turn on stage, bringing stories from every corner of the globe and inspiring both outrage and hope with their experiences. Their stories were recounted through the “words of Terra Madre,” key themes that define the Slow Food movement’s primary concerns. Carlos Vanegas Valdebenito from Chiloé Island, Chile, spoke poetically of Earth.

Indian activist and Slow Food vice-president Vandana Shiva talked about Seeds: the “genocide” of farmer suicides in her country and the scandal of biopiracy. Carmen Martinez, from the Slow Food Tehuacán Amaranth Presidium in Mexico, talked about Water, and Dario Fo, Nobel Laureate in Literature, about Hunger, with a bravura performance in the Commedia dell’Arte tradition telling the story of a starving peasant.

After a musical interlude from Roy Paci and a multi-ethnic group of musicians, Nikki Henderson from the People’s Grocery in Oakland, California and Alice Waters, Slow Food vice-president and chef, talked about Education; Sergej Ivanov from Serbia spoke about Biodiversity, Yoko Sudo from Fukushima, Japan, about Energy and Edward Mukiibi, coordinator of the Thousand Gardens in Africa project in Uganda, about Network.

The event closed with a rousing speech by Slow Food’s founder and president, Carlo Petrini, who focused on the political nature of the movement: “In these years, Terra Madre has been observed with curiosity, seen in terms of anthropology, folklore. No. This reality must be seen as a big political phenomenon.” However, he said, the politics of Terra Madre will come with serenity and celebration. “This crisis won’t be overcome with sadness. At Terra Madre, politics has taken joy by the hand.”

Representatives from the world of politics were on hand on Thursday morning for the official opening of the event to the visitors of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. Piero Fassino, Mayor of Turin, spoke along with the president of the Piedmont Regional Authority, Roberto Cota, and the Italian Minister for Agriculture, Mario Catania, who described the government’s efforts to bring attention back to agricultural issues, which have been ignored in past years, and to follow the Slow Food vision for the world of food and farming. Carlo Petrini praised the Minister’s understanding of agriculture, and said that the union of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre marked the departure point of an extraordinary adventure. His mission, he said, was to make it “the biggest gastronomy and food event in the world.”

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