Israel is an example to other countries of how an arid land can become self-sufficient in producing food, says Giuseppe Sala, the organiser of the 2015 World's Fair in Milan, which will focus on food security.
Giuseppe Sala is the commissioner of the government of Italy and chief executive officer for Expo Milano 2015. The exposition, also known as the World's Fair, will attempt to spur debate, and even policy action, on how to feed a rising world population. Organisers have named the event 'Feeding the planet - energy for life'.
Sala spoke to EurActiv's Marc Hall at the margins of an event about the Expo at the European Parliament. This interview was edited into a shorter form.
You mentioned the science of producing food, and also the pleasure [in eating it]. Will there be examples on the site of different techniques of making food … to create a story for the visitors?
Yes, this is a point. We are disseminating the project from the countries and we see that. Let me give you some examples. Israel is a country where technically the cultivation can be done on 20% of the land but in practice they are auto-sufficient because through the drop by drop [irrigation] technology they transform a land into a cultivatable land. This is an example.
Other countries are working on the consumption and to avoid waste and they are working from the idea that there is not enough food for everybody. The problem is not only related to Africa, or those countries where the agriculture suffers, but also to our countries because it is fundamental for us to use the food resources in the right way. The FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] says that one third of the food is wasted and that’s incredible.
So we see many different options where the single country decides to underline their idea or sometimes their quality. When they say their quality, some countries are working on their tradition. For instance, many countries are working on the bio-Mediterranean qualities and products. So I believe at the end that the visitor could be attracted by so many different ways to see the global fame of food.
With so many different players in the food market - different companies, organisations, institutions, how can you come up with a storyline that makes everyone happy?
We are working with the idea of being an open platform so the point is to host everybody and to allow everybody to define their message. Again, one example, we signed an agreement with Slow Food. As you probably know Slow Food supports a traditional view of the agricultural system. They work and they defend the biodiversity. They defend the little farmers. They are strongly connected to the tradition.
At the same time, the Americans will present a pavilion [with] technology - and they are not saying we are in favour of genetic modification. When we signed the agreement with Carlo Petrini, the head of Slow Food, he simply said the question is to educate the people; the question is to put everyone in position to know. Everyone speaks about the genetic modification but when I ask do you know exactly what is the genetic modification nobody knows.
So in principle, Expo has this idea to educate the people and to give a common knowledge and that is the reason for which I do not see that there is a real problem to view in a different way. The point is to ask everybody, of course giving a common framework, to put everybody in condition to explain their view, their vision.
Is it significant that Milan, in Italy, was chosen as the site for the exhibition, since Italy has quite a traditional [approach] to producing food?
We live in a region, Lombardy, where agriculture has a long tradition and even for this reason we decided to candidate ourselves for this [exhibition]. Then we must accept that part of the people will be attracted by the theme but then they will decide to visit the city and the region where the Expo is hosted … another problem is the preparation of Milan.
… One reason we thought food would be a good theme is that one it is very Italian; number two it is very modern - increasing population, food safety, food security; and number three because we made this very simple consideration that at the end the theme is in a condition to satisfy everybody.
Part of the people is interested in the social and scientific and cultural point of view but part of the people is simply, not simply, not in a banal way, but simply interested in the pleasure that could give.
Photo credit: Expo 2015.