The Slow Food movement: A Two-Tier Ethic?


…by Romain Redouin


Born in Italy in 1989, under the leadership of Carlo Petrini, in order to fight against the fast-food-ization of society, Slow Food, an “international movement for the right to pleasure” has become in recent years an important player within the environmental movements in its Eco-gastronomic branch.
Through the ideas and positions defended by Carlo Petrini in his book Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair, this article will aim to show a rather unknown facet of this movement born within the Italian radical left, advocating the democratization of gastronomy and considered by many as the culinary branch of alter-globalism.[1]


Slow Food: Assessments and Ethics:

In his book, Petrini analyzes the failures of the industrial farming model production – notably through the progressive replacement of agricultural communities by a monoculture system, based on technology and controlled by large corporations.

He takes sides against the green revolution, explaining that in addition to being an ecological disaster (soil depletion, ecosystem damage etc…); it was also a financial disaster that merely served to open significant new markets to large multinationals and brought a new form of colonization in the developing countries.

He also denounces the attempt by seed multinationals to impose their seeds on the market; first by forcing farmers to abandon natural selection they have always done by themselves in their history, but also by introduction GMOs which he sees as the ultimate strategy in this process of domination.

Further, he discusses the negative effects of HACCP rules on small producers through the intolerable increase in paperwork, leading to an inevitable increase in cost to meet the standards and demonstrates that ultimately this power harassment turns once again in favour of industrialists.

Petrini also explains that he is not impressed by sustainable development projects financed by multinationals arguing that they represent only a small percentage of their production, and that in any event, this is only a vain attempt on their part to salve their conscience.

Oddly, he adds that according to him, the greatest threat to the West comes from China because of its economic growth, and therefore, we should analyze the problem from the point of view of social justice, pointing at pollution problems, labour rights and agricultural practices so harmful that they are apparently banned in the rest of the world. This assessment leads him to explain that we should promote a strong international reaction, rejecting all complicity with such an unfair system towards environment and labour.

Nevertheless, Petrini draws attention to a point that he considers crucial and which will allow us in this article to judge his own ethic:

Industrialists are not solely responsible; it is down to us, the citizens, small producers, celebrity chefs, and activists to promote sustainable agriculture. To do this, he believes that ethics is important, and that whenever we are involved in transactions whose purpose is to enrich a dangerous system, we should therefore question ourselves.



Is the Slow Food movement still ethical? 

Based on these rather divisive analyses, leaving little room for concessions, it is surprising to note that an extensive investigation of the Slow Food political network shows that Carlo Petrini is far from sharing the intransigence he expects from his readers and supporters towards large multinationals and those responsible for what he considers an ecological and human disaster.

Firstly, towards the end of his book, after having told us the bad opinion he has against the green revolution and GMOs, he devotes a chapter to David Rockefeller in these glowing terms:

“I had the privilege to meet David Rockefeller, who at the venerable age of ninety is the last living child of the magnate John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He is a remarkable character: his physical condition is exceptional … but above all, he shows an intellectual curiosity that would put many forty years old to shame. “[2]

It seems enough to Petrini that Rockefeller-who is also in favour of degrowth – is the owner of an organic farm in the Hudson River Valley to make him forget that it is the philanthropic foundation of this man that is found behind the green revolution, the GMOs, initiated the Club of Rome and all this after having previously explained to us not being impressed by the attempts of the elite to salve their conscience. [3]

How many Slow Food activists know that among the leading backers of their movement we find institutions like the Ford Foundation [4], the Soros foundation [5], The 11th Hour Project [6] set up by Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman which was the distributor of Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”?  A “truth” we know now it was not that inconvenient… [7]

Even Kellogg’s which is among one of the most criticized company within the ecological movements  around which gravitate Slow Food [8] does not seem to blush Petrini since he accepts a substantial financing from this agribusiness giant and also gives conferences for their foundation. [9]

As for the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition which is a partner of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, born under Petrini’s leadership, it has long had in its Advisory Committee Mario Monti, who after his departure in 2011 filed a motion against the Calabria Region before the constitutional courts of the country to prevent to enact laws promoting the marketing of regional agricultural products. And even to declare that localism was the main enemy. This does not preclude Oscar Farinetti, creator of the chain Eataly, closely linked to the Slow Food, to make a toast in his honour. [10]

WorldWatch Institute, which is an American organization of environmental research funded by the Gates Foundation to the amount of 1.3 million for a project of innovation in agriculture in order to feed the world in sub-Saharan Africa, has selected a number of organizations to carry out these projects including Slow Food through its “10,000 gardens in Africa”. [11]

Even more embarrassing, after a long tirade against industrial seed starving farmers around the world, Petrini seems to have no ethical problems accepting money from the Wallace Genetic Foundation [12].

Henry Wallace, the father of the Green Revolution, once Vice-President of the United States, editor of The New Republic, a progressive left magazine, a  promoter of F1 hybrid seed who co-founded the Iowa Seed Company in 1929 and create Hybrid Corn company which will become Pioneer in 1935.

He created the Wallace Foundation from the actions of his company. DuPont Pioneer is currently a major player in the field of genetically modified organisms [13].


The Soft Slow Food Power

Although nowadays Carlo Petrini pretend to no longer believe in the right/left dichotomy, it is important, as we reported earlier on, to recall that his movement was born within the radical left, and that there is still a strong link between the Slow Food – especially, but many ecological movements in general – and the liberal progressive left like the many foundations mentioned previously.
Based on this, even if the movement is still relying on national offices, the Slow Food is primarily both a local and international movement, which mean that it does nothing else than applying the strategic development of globalization, by promoting glocalization. The glocalization is a dual process by which institutional and regulatory arrangements abandon the national in favour of both the supranational and the urban, regional and local configurations. This explains why even when the Slow Food criticizes international institutions, it does not rely for these on national institutions but rather on other international settings. [14]
He reveals it by enjoining us to promote an international response against China for its intense use of GMOs. Yet, as shown in the chart below, all what Petrini reproach China for is found in far more extent in the USA, against which on the contrary it does not seem necessary to bring in this famous international community, but rather to get there to find funding and to give lectures!



The recent development of Slow Food and many other environmental organizations in Africa at the same time where institutes that fund them are promoting the “green revolution of the 21st century” (which they present as a genetic revolution [15]) on the very same continent is reminiscent of this not so distant period where the same foundations were using the first green revolution to halt the Communist advance in a cold War context. Wouldn’t it be nowadays about stopping the Chinese and Russian advance on this continent?

What is also the objective interest of those multinationals to support, through their foundations, environmental groups such as Slow Food if it is not to slowly kill those competing small and medium-sized industries which would not have the means to monitor this infrastructure change required by the ecological revolution, serving large agricultural conglomerates?

What multinationals lose funding these structures and adapting themselves to these environmental standards, they regain it by destroying these smaller competitors who cannot adapt and whose sanctions will imply to be forced out of business.


A religious background

It appears obvious that the Slow Food is an integral part of this pantheistic movement of deep ecology [16] leading to a divination of nature and a holistic approach to it and that the flagship institute in this field is the WWF with whom Slow Food is partnering on projects [17]. A holistic approach of interdependence found throughout Petrini’s book.

It is not a coincidence that Prince Charles, president of the British branch of WWF and ardent defender of the UN’S Agenda 21, the new bible of the  sustainable development’s followers, is the idol of the American progressive culinary elite and that Prince Charles sees for his part Carlo Petrini as his new Guru[18].

And it is perhaps not a coincidence that the global network of sustainable food communities created by Slow Food in 2004 is called Terra Madre which is reminiscent of the cult of mother earth from the pantheistic religion. [19]

All this beautifully summarized  a few weeks ago by Alain Ducasse – an ambassador and honorary president of Slow Food Monaco – in The Guardian where he explains that the Grands Chefs (but we can also include Eco-gastronomes) are the bridge between nature and customers. [20]

Romain R












[12] Annual report :,d.ZGU









One response to “The Slow Food movement: A Two-Tier Ethic?

  1. A wonderfully informative post. Thank you for sharing.I will follow up on the Alain Ducasse original.


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