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FRU.TO: The highlights from Alex Atala's Food Symposium

FRU.TO: The highlights from Alex Atala's Food Symposium

An overview of the Food Symposium that gathered food experts in São Paulo to discuss sustainability and the best way 'to feed the future'.

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It’s curious a food symposium nowadays without any chef on the stage. But on FRU.TO – Dialogos do alimento, Brazilian chef Alex Atala’s first ever food seminar, which took place in Sao Paulo on January 26 and 27 2018, the main stars were farmers, producers, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and scholars. Atala, who took the stage only to open the event, alongside the co-curator and cultural promoter Felipe Ribenboim, said that their goal was to talk more “about sustainability, social issues and even the science behind our food” than ingredients, techniques and other cooks’ issues.

In two days, 32 speakers addressed a variety of topics to discuss many questions focused on a single issue: how to find alternatives for the population to have access to more fair, good, and clean food in the future. As a legacy of the event, Atala and Ribenboim have launched the manifesto “10 seeds of FRU.TO to feed the future”, preaching ideas such as “the oceans are the next frontier”and “local food needs to be strengthened”, among others.

Here are the highlights from the seminar.

Fighting Hunger 

As one of the main themes, the fight against hunger appeared in several panels. David Lehrer, from the Kibbutz Ketura, explained how to grow food in one of the most adverse and extreme regions of the world, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, where there is very little rain and temperatures reach high levels. He has introduced the cultivation model for Jaffa oranges and Israeli wines (increasingly present in the wine menus of the world's great restaurants) as ways to circumvent climatic conditions and seek solutions – like the seawater desalination and drip irrigation.

Isadora Ferreira, from the Centre of Excellence against Hunger of the United Nations World Food Programme, said that the main cause of hunger in the world is the lack of access to food, since we have food to feed everyone on the planet today. She presented some UN studies on how one of the most important solutions to fight hunger can be in the school lunch. According to data collected by the institution, school lunches ensure minimal nutrition for children, who are the biggest victims of malnutrition in the planet, improve educational indicators and also create a closer relationship with food.

The Relation to the Land

Planting our own food is the biggest food revolution we can have. To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves” The need to improve our relationship with the land was the central point of Ron Finley's speech. Known as the “gangsta gardener”, Finley has been revolutionizing California's urban communities with his eponymous Project

Ernest Götch, the pioneer in syntropic farming (a way to reconcile agricultural production and recovery of degraded areas), told how he created a farm in the interior of Salvador de Bahia by planting new species and allowing the balance to be restored gradually. Today, he grows one of the best cacao in Brazil, exported to make some of the finest chocolates in the world, in a real forest where he has decided to live since arriving from Switzerland. “Each organism appears in the world equipped to fulfill a specific task, and the only law that governs us is that of symbiosis cooperation”, told him, in one of the warmest speeches.

Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini also followed the idea by arguing that talking about gastronomy should be more related to the product and the field than to dishes and techniques. “This is the first food simposyum I’ve attended to that faces food in a wider and more holistic way”, said Petrini during his presentation.

String for Biodiversity

In Brazil, there are 200 to 250 bee species capable of producing honey - from about 350 in the Americas. It is the country with the largest apiary variety in the world producing very different honey. Honey is a terroir product, just like wine. "In the country of agribusiness, native honey is an urgent issue”, said ecologist Jerônimo Villas-Bôas, the main activist for Brazilian native bees. Preserving these bees, according to him, is not only a way to preserve all the flavors and aromas these unique honeys can offer to a dish. But to preserve the country biodiversity, and the possibility for us to continue to rely on all possible plant species to feed us. “Today and, especially, in the future”.

The Solution is in the Ocean

During her lecture, Simone Jones, from Seafood Watch and Monterey Bay Aquarium, explained we should transform our relation to the food that comes from the ocean. Although we are facing problems such as water pollution and the lack of tracking systems of what we are fishing, she indicates that we have an enormous potential to replace animal feed (which takes up about 50% of the world's arable land) by fish and other seafood as the primary source of protein. “In this way, we would be able to have more land to plant and create more restrictive policies for the exploitation of the oceans”, she explained. Jones also ensured that kelp is the new kale in gastronomy scene. “We will see many of them in fine dining dishes”.

Lastly, Jon Rose presented how his foundation, the humanist project Waves for Water, is providing access to clean water through the distribution of portable water filters to people in need. With the slogan “do what you love and help along the way”, he created a community of professional and amateur surfers who can take those filters to the countries they visit in order to help local population.

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