Growth spurt for slow food

December 23, 2005

Italy's gastronomic sciences university will open a faculty of agro-ecology in which traditional methods of food production, particularly in developing countries, will be studied.

The university was created in 2004 by the Slow Food movement, set up in opposition to fast food, with a single faculty covering food and wine production.

Rector Alberto Capatti said: "We want to train students from countries that either still use traditional techniques or have already been invaded by the methods of multinational agro-business, and offer a third alternative that is environmentally sustainable and safeguards quality and diversity."

The Università di Scienze Gastronomiche is in its second year, with a current annual intake of some 70 students. A total of about 200 students is planned for 2005-06, divided between campuses near Turin and Parma.

So far, the university has focused on striving for food quality in richer countries, but the new faculty will work with developing economies, where the dangers of mass production are greatest.

"Slow Food and USG have chosen Miguel Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley, to pilot this project," Mr Carpatti said. "Professor Altieri is anentomologist by training but also one of the world's greatest authorities on ecologically sustainable agriculture. We will work with him on a list of possible teachers and specific educational objectives, and hope to have the new faculty operational by 2007 or 2008."

The university plans for an annual intake of 50 students from developing countries, largely supported by scholarships. It will train them in agricultural methods that are both environmentally sustainable and economically viable, and in business skills.

"We want to create experts who can go back to their countries to guide agricultural production policies," Mr Capatti said. "Policies based on a Western agronomic model have often been a failure. We want to train people who can develop biodiversity, in agriculture and animal breeding, which existed in traditional farming."

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