There comes a time when you have to take a stand for a cause; and protecting food heritage seems like a pretty good cause and now seems like a really excellent time. There’s a silent war being waged on traditional and heritage foods around the world, in fact, on all food that is sustainable and readily available at the community level.With backroom deals like the ‘regulatory convergence’ and other TTIP nightmares hanging around our heads, it’s a good idea to start paying attention and taking a stand.
Right now the EU has three protected food designation that help insure the preservation of not only growing but also production, processing, and even originating landscape of designated foodstuffs. The first designation is the PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin. If you see this label on food then you know that this particular food was grown, processed, and prepared in a particular region with a particular traditional approach. An example of PDO is something like Parma Ham, which can only be called Parma Ham if it comes from Parma, Italy and is produced the same way it has been produced for centuries. The second designation is the PGI, Protected Geographical Indication. PGI means that at least one of the steps in the process, either agriculture, preparation or traditional technique occurs within the appropriate and protected geographical area. An example of PGI would be something like Welsh Lamb.
To have the label Welsh Lamb, it can only be lamb born and reared in Wales. The third designation is TSG, Traditional Specialty Guaranteed. TSG basically means that some form of the traditional preparation is preserved but it does not have to occur within a designation landscape. An example of TSG would be something like Traditional FarmFresh Turkeys. Traditional FarmFresh Turkeys is a designation that insures that more traditional means of growing and processing is followed. As long as they are raised and slaughtered within the appropriate standards they can be designated as Traditional FarmFresh Turkeys (TSG). Since the onset of the TTIP rumors, small producers and communities with specialty food products have been trying to get designation so they are not completely lost in the quagmire of agribusiness and transatlantic big food takeover. I think it’s important to note that the U.S. and Canada do not recognize the designations applied by the EU so foods within the U.S. and Canada can have the same name without the attention to detail, losing some really amazing heritage food cultures. In the U.S. there are some food designations that have petitioned the state and federal government for protected status but this typically has an emphasis on commerce rather than quality.
Why does this matter? Well, biodiversity is a key component in health and survival of a species and of the planet. The health of our growing environment, like soil and surrounding landscapes as well as various species like bees, butterflies and other insects, birds, and animals, really depends on biodiversity. When we produce on a smaller scale by more traditional means we can encourage the health and well-being of not just ourselves within our communities but also of the land and other species that surround us.
The homogenization and mass production of food stuffs is actually contributing heavily to our own demise, despite what transatlantic faux food producing companies might tell you on their commercials.
Basically, it’s not only about food protection, it’s also about food sovereignty; Every human being, (and I think every species) has the right to food that nourishes and contributes to health and wellness of themselves and their communities. Sustainable food practices are not exorbitantly expensive or prohibitive, despite what you’ve been led to believe..they just spread the wealth out a little too far and everyone gets a piece of the proverbial pie rather than a small handful of a chosen few. So, what’s the catch?
The catch is that we all have to care. The time to think that standing up and speaking out for food rights is over. It's no longer a luxury left to annoying advocacy groups. Every human has to care. We all have to be willing to vote with our dollars and say “no thank you” to foods that don’t fall into the category of health enhancing, quality, sustainable, and bio-diverse. We have to protect our heritage foods and make conscious choices. The truth is, most people don’t know what choices to make or who to believe. Bohemian Mojo is spending the year speaking up... we’ll be highlighting different PDO, PGI, and TSG foods as well as other sustainable practices and endeavors. We’ll also be calling out the baddies and giving you real information to make real and informed decisions.