Teachers' Blog

Siena Food Innovation

What is the connection between sexual confusion and drones? Among genetic label, insects, and rural cities? All have to do with the future of food. All have to do with food innovation, which was the main theme discussed in Siena during the last “Millennial festival” that took place at the beginning of October, thanks to the University of Siena, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), and PRIMA (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area).

Millennials from many different European and north-African countries gathered in Siena to share their visions on food, and thus Siena became the capital of food sustainability for a couple of days. Actually, not only for a couple of days. Siena is the place to be when it comes to discussing how food production impacts the earth, our health, and the wealth of its territory.

Sexual confusion is what is needed in vineyards to avoid chemical pesticides: if female and male pests don't meet, don't recognise each other, the deed is done. In Montalcino they are experiencing this method with good results.

Also drones are good allies in detecting pests, illness, lack of water, and allowing farmers to use less toxic products to protect the plants.

Discussing food innovation leads (unavoidably) to insects: in these days the European Commission regulates the issue. At the moment in Italy insects as food are not allowed, but they are in a few other European countries. Norway, considered the most to insects, with 70% of the population in favor of introducing them in diets as a relevant source of protein.

Well, there's no accounting for taste, is there? Nevertheless we should be aware that we can't afford to rely only on meat as a source of protein. So what about vegetables 

Genetic label is considered the ultimate method to guarantee food quality. No more counterfeiting products; it will be easier and easier to write the identity card of any food based on genetic evidence.

What about rural cities? The Italian architect Mario Cucinella, curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2018, invited to Siena,  explained the theme he chose for the exhibition. “Arcipelago Italia” focuses on the urban space of the internal areas of Italy, exemplifying the identity of our country. According to Cucinella, the Apennines – the central and southern part of inner Italy – is where the knowledge has settled. This explains why some of the best products of the Italian style (i.e. Ferrari, Luxottica, Frau, Tod's, etc) are produced not in big cities but in small villages. The Chinese city planners are studying the Italian case. It could be a model to reshape the idea of big cities, to maintain a strong relationship between cities and county, between city-dwellers and farmers, food consumer, and food producers.

Daniela Passeri

Sustainability Teacher