The Slow Food California Legislative Policy Committee has reviewed all twelve propositions on the 2020 ballot. The Committee has unanimously agreed to not take a position for or against on any of the propositions on the ballot. The rationale for this decision is that none of the propositions deal in a relevant way with Slow Food’s ethos of “good, clean, and fair food”.
The past few months have been a busy time for the Slow Food California Policy Committee, especially at the state level. It looks like we will have plenty to continue to do in the near future and we look forward to working with Slow Food USA as the U.S. Farm Bill continues to take shape. We will definitely be reaching out for member support as we advocate or a Good, Clean, and Fair food system for All. The following recaps our efforts and looks ahead to what we expect to be on our advocacy agenda:
AB626 – Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations. We have formally supported this bill that expands the allowable foods in cottage food operations. On June 21, 2018 it passed the Senate Health Committee and is now in the Senate Appropriation Committee. The link to the bill can be found here.
SB946 – Sidewalk Vendors. This bill decriminalizes sidewalk vendors and places certain requirements for local government regulations of sidewalk vendors. We support this bill that passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly having just passed on a 6-1 vote in the Assembly Local Government Committee. The link to the bill can be found here.
We commented on proposed wording for the National Bioengineered Disclosure Standard – using wording aligned with Slow Food USA’s comment many of the committee members individually and the Committee as a whole, on behalf of Slow Food California, commented on the newly proposed labeling of products containing GMOs advocating against the proposed BE (bioengineered) smiley, sun-faced labels and other elements of the proposed changes. The Committee comment can be read below. The proposed rule (which is no longer open for comment) can be found here.
SB872 Compromise on beverage bottle taxes – this one caught most everyone by surprise. In the shadows of the Capitol, a behind the scenes compromise what hammered between the highest levels of the Legislature and Governor’s Office with the American Bottle Association to stall the ability of local governments to enact local taxes on “carbonated and noncarbonated nonalcoholic beverages” and other “groceries” until the end of 2030. In exchange for the moratorium, the beverage industry would pull a proposed ballot initiative that would have required a 2/3 majority of local voters to approve a new local tax or tax increase. The Governor and many mayors across the state felt the compromise was necessary so that cash-strapped local governments could attempt to increase taxes in their jurisdictions. The bill can be found here. Read more here.
U.S. Farm Bill – the U.S. Senate passed its version of the U.S. Farm Bill in late June that did not include the food stamp changes approved by the House earlier in the month. The Senate bill passed with bi-partisan support whereas the House version passed on a purely partisan vote. We will keep an eye on this as it goes through the reconciliation process and work with Slow Food USA and our other national partners as this moves forward.
This what I submitted today on behalf of SFCA:
On behalf of the Slow Food California Chapter’s Policy Committee and in support of our dedication to a food system that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All. We have supported labeling GMO foods since 2012 and encourage USDA to enact policy that reflects what consumers want: honesty and transparency that puts no further burden on them to easily understand what’s in the products they purchase to feed their children and families. We believe in a consumers’ right to fully be able to recognize the composition of the food that they and their families consume. The proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Docket No. AMS-TM-17-0050) does not support in any way that right. Indeed, it appears to be providing cover to ingredients that are the anti-thesis of Good, Clean, and Fair. I strongly urge the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service to reconsider the proposed wording of the rule in the following ways:
1. Include products containing highly refined ingredients. The proposed exemption would create a massive loophole for the majority of products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, like sugars and oils, and therefore undermines the effectiveness of the standard.
2. Use commonly accepted wording instead of “bioengineered“, which is not well-established or recognized by consumers. Instead, the well-established “genetically engineered” (or “GE”), or “genetically modified organism” (or “GMO”) should be used to reduce unnecessary consumer confusion. The USDA should allow only the terms “Genetically Engineered” or “GMO” as those are the popular terms that have been recognized by consumers for decades. “Bioengineered” is not recognized or used by the public. Please do not confuse consumers. Further, put the globally accepted threshold for GE contamination at no more than .9%. This will keep our standards in line with our EU and other trade partners. In addition, if it’s any higher, consumers will lose trust in the label and the government’s ability to provide the transparency they want.
3. Change the logos. A winking, sunny, smiley face, bearing an abbreviation that equates to a positive action verb (BE) is hardly the objective conveyor of scientific fact and seemingly suggests that the USDA promotes genetically engineered products and prefers them over organic and other conventional, non-GE foods. The smile, sun, and scenic symbolism should be replaced by designs that simply indicate that the product is genetically engineered or that it contains genetically engineered ingredients. I suggest GE or GMO in a circle.
4. Do NOT delay implementation: the proposed compliance date of January 1, 2020 is more than enough time for companies to transition to the new labeling standards. Do not include the unreasonable and unnecessary delay to January 1, 2022 in the final rule.
5. Require clear, on-package labels that do not require consumers to look QR codes, website URLs, or any other alternatives to be used instead of clear, on-package labels. The USDA’s own 2017 study shows how ineffective and discriminatory these alternatives are.
6. Enact a strong enforcement policy to protect both consumers and farmers. Contamination issues are increasing and will continue to do so in the future. Only a strong enforcement provision will engender trust in the label and protection from contamination for both our farmers and the citizens who buy their foods.
Thank you for adopting these suggestions in order to strengthen the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. By including these suggestions, this standard will better support a consumers‘ right to make informed decisions about what they and their families consume.
June 26, 2018
Slow Food, Cuban Style: Happy Farm Convivium, Havana
It started with rabbits. “We fell in love with them”, says Dario Martos Gonzalez, of “Granjita Feliz” (Happy Farm), a project and convivium in Guanabacoa, a municipality on the outskirts of Havana. An attorney by profession, Dario left his job several years ago, together with his wife and project co-leader Elisabeth Frometa Mejias, to devote himself to developing a ‘proyecto comunitario’ (community project) that began with this first falling in love. With no prior knowledge of animal breeding, they cleared a space in their home, a narrow, two-story 19th building in the middle of town, to raise rabbits. Elizabeth enrolled in an adult learning program in veterinary medicine. Within a few short years, they were breeding over 100 rabbits each month, and selling them for their meat.
Animal protein is dear in Cuba, and consists almost entirely of locally-raised pork and imported (frozen, from the USA) chicken. Beef is prohibitively expensive on the open market; what little ground beef is included in Cuba’s universal food rations comes stretched with soy protein. Enter rabbit, a healthy, tasty, and accessible alternative, and a well-known and prized ingredient in the Spanish gastronomy that suffuses so much of Cuban cuisine.
As Elizabeth and Dario gained knowledge and experience, what began as a project to produce rabbits for meat evolved into a selective breeding program. Now they raise the animals to improve the quality of the breeds and produce breeder destined to home farmers. Face to face in the community and through local television programming, Elizabeth teaches other home breeders how to raise and care for them. Today, Granjita’s rabbits number only around 40, and share the indoor space with 3 hives of ground bees and a dozen quail. On the roof above are the latest additions to the project’s produce: strawberries. Delicately balanced greenhouse shelves sit atop the slender edges of the building’s fragile roof, the only part of the structure capable of bearing weight. Taking a lesson from the rabbit operation, Granjita is breeding strawberries not for the fruit, but for the seedlings, which they
distribute to families wanting to grow berries at home. It’s a tricky proposition in the wilting tropical heat, not the ideal growing conditions for berries. Here too, Granjita steps in with the how-to necessary to succeed, through classes, programs, and demonstrations. Also on the menu of Granjita’s offerings are art and gardening programs for children with autism and Down’s syndrome, and monthly donations of farm-fresh produce for the families of children with cancer. In this way, Granjita is as much horizontal community project as vertical urban farm.
As the hub of one of Havana’s four Slow Food convivia, Elizabeth and Dario have been joined by a diverse group of farmers, engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs with a similar philosophy, about both happiness and power. From “revolution is . . .”, a series of dicta culled from Fidel Castro’s speeches exhorting the Cuban people to embody revolutionary ideals, the hand-scrawled sign on the gate of the uneven 2-acre plot belonging to Carlos, also known as the “hombre goma” (rubber man), says it well. It reads “Revolution is emancipating ourselves by our own efforts”. The rubber man moniker comes from the vegetable garden Carlos has created using hundreds of discarded truck tires that once littered his property and garnered fines from the municipal authorities for serving as mosquito breeding grounds. Now, piled three or four high, and filled part way with strips of rubber from other tires, they form circular raised beds that allow for easy tending. Carlos has opened the garden to his neighbors, who share in the work as well as the harvest. Some of the produce is destined for the monthly grocery baskets donated to the families of children with cancer. Here, where money is scarce and buys little, the capital that counts is mostly social, the measure of success disseminating know-how. And happiness.
Alienated lives lived at unimaginable pace is the result of an industrialized efficiency we’ve come to take for granted. We find its effects in fast food, fast money, a homogenized and manic travel experience, and a of our spiritual experiences under the big tent of big churches.
Carlo Petrini is one of the first to formalize a resounding answer to the threat found in a singular, efficient global economy. He did this by creating the granddaddy of all slows, Slow Food.
Using the language of , an antonym for fast food became the lyrical call for a sustainable food movement. Today, people from around the world work together to bring life to a preserving local cultures through local food.
Investing within 50 miles of the places we call home, Slow Money minded folks deepen our relationships with our local food purveyors at fields, farmers’ markets, and get-togethers. These authentic relationships create a network of social capital we can use to mitigate the financial risk of community investment. Sharing tastes and meals with neighbors who work as farmers, food artisans and food entrepreneurs, we find community. Through community connection, consumer becomes co-creator.
We steward our resources. We curate for healthy pace. We design for suitable scale and trust the limits imposed by the carrying capacity of our lands. We intuit true cost and fair price. We vet financial opportunities for local food enterprise. And we do it together, aspiring to a wise investment process.
At the intersection of local food and Slow Money finance, we create business communities that give form to a deeply understood regional voice and the terroir of place. Financial resource becomes tool to craft a new vision of local agriculture against the danger of what is now an unsustainable, industrial agribusiness.
We move money from Wall Street to our local economies to support livelihoods where health can flourish. We create unique enclaves and thriving Main streets. Our neighborhoods become places of worth, autonomous yet attractive to travelers seeking authentic slow, connected experiences.
Some of us embrace traveling ourselves. Steeped in the mindfulness of ‘slow’ experience, we carry an appreciation for the connections found in other communities and other worlds. We eagerly seek traditional food and drink and a sense of heritage, especially when combined with a community-based tendering of financial resources. We respect local community members. Vacationing, we follow their lead for consumption and purchase decisions while leaving any desire for impactful investing to their experienced sense of place. Through our efforts, we find reward in diverse landscapes. We know the priceless value of slow.