Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Taste Council’s first Summer School.
A special effort was made here at Oldfarm, with the organisation of animals, so that we could both attend this year’s school at Brooklodge. The theme was ‘The Future is Food signing up to the Food Story’.
I am not sure how many attended on Thursday. I would guess less than last year. However, it was heartening to see a greater number of chefs in attendance. And I think I can say, without a doubt, that County Tipperary was the best representated county there – with at least a dozen food producers along!
The line up of speakers was impressive.
The agenda included a topic dear to our hearts – Label Protection for the Artisan Food Producer.
The session was chaired by John McKenna of Bridgestone Guides. There were some intriguing things revealed during the initial talk by Raymound O’Rourke. For instance 30% of consumers think the label ‘natural’ means organic!
But, in truth, the talk skirted around a lot of issues!
It was actually left for a member of the audience (@pigoftheday) to raise the question of gmo’s. He asked the panel where they stood on the matter, and in particular, asked the representative of Teagasc, to explain how planting gm potatoes could sit well with an image of Ireland as a ‘clean, green island’? The answer, it you could even call the reply an answer, was so non-committal it was unbelievable.
John McKenna asked the audience for a show of hands on who would like to see products labelled as containing gm. There were some who didn’t raise their hands, but again I would guess that about 90% of the audience wanted to see gm labelling.
The second morning session was on label protection for the artisan fishing fleet. This was an informative session.
After a break for a delicious lunch sitting outside in the orchard, it was time to head back for the World Cafe Debate.
This was an excellent idea. It gave all of us who attended an opportunity to voice our opinions. We broke into roundtable discussion groups chaired by members of the Taste Council. Again our time was spent 50/50 on discussions about labelling in the food and fish industries.
At our table the labelling terminology chosen for discussion were:
Local – so what is local, it is 10/15 mile radius? Is it nationwide? If a jam is made with local fruit and imported sugar – is that local?
GMO’s – the overall consensus was that gm should not be allowed into the country, and anything imported containing gm product should be labelled accordingly.
Irish fish, Irish waters – this would bring about a seasonality and sustainability to the fish industry, as well as improve the economy.
Return to quayside buying – improve the buying from source image, the fisherman would be a knowledge centre improving education. A recent survey by Bord Bia asked people to name 10 fish…. most could only name 2 – salmon and cod!
Natural – this was perhaps the most revealing. Everyone at our table felt this word should be removed from all packaging as it has been so abused it means absolutely nothing and is just confusing the consumer.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for the final session, but from following the tweet feed I believe the subject of GM was once again raised. This time by Peter Ward of Country Choice made valid point questioning compatibility of Teagasc non commercial GMO experiment and Bord Bia’s Origin Green campaign.
My summary of the day:
* It is a great networking opportunity to meet fellow food producers and chefs.
* It is so good to spend the day with people who are passionate about food.
* It was interesting that most people felt the term ‘natural’ should be removed from food labelling as it is so over abused and means absolutely nothing.
* I liked the World Cafe aspect as it gave participants a chance to contribute. Keep that up guys for next year.
* Last year raw milk was the emotive topic, this year it was gm potatoes and labelling it would be good if agents from the likes of Teagasc, etc. were willing to engage on the emotive issues. Surely, they didn’t think the day would go by without gm being raised?
* It would have been nice to see more food writers/bloggers along to meet with producers and learn of the challenges 2012 has thrown their way.
And on a final note, it was amazing to learn the following day that Teagasc had gone ahead and planted the gm potatoes on Monday last…. did the representative at the session on Thursday know this? If not, why not?