Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Taste of Europe with Dr. Lorenzo Terzi

Get a taste of food policy as well as Oregon and European food and wine next Thursday, October 18, when I moderate a panel discussion featuring Dr. Lorenzo Terzi, European Union Minister Counselor for Health and Food Safety; along with Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture; Katy Millard, owner and chef of Coquine and a 2018 James Beard Award finalist; and Oren Kariri, Food Safety Manager of New Seasons Market. Scroll to the bottom of the post for details!

Trade in food, plants and seeds has been going on since humans appeared on the scene, when potatoes and corn made their way from the Americas over to Europe, and the Spice Route, also known as the Silk Road, spread food and other goods along thousands of miles of terrain between Asia and Europe.

Dr. Lorenzo Terzi.

Now things are a little more complicated, with strict regulations governing imports and exports between trading partners, and with standards on both sides of the Atlantic affecting what's on our plates today and how our global health might be affected tomorrow. One of the people who gets to worry about those regulations is Dr. Lorenzo Terzi (pron. TEHRT-see), a minister for health and food safety with the European Union (EU).

He's coming to Portland to help raise awareness about the European Union's standards for health and safety, touted to be, along with those of the U.S., among the highest standards in the world. The EU Delegation decided to come to Oregon because of its standing as an important trading partner in agricultural products, or what Terzi calls "agri-food."

In fact, it's the second trip for Terzi to Oregon in the last month, the first being an audit of U.S. standards and controls for plants and seeds intended for export to the EU to avoid the spread of pathogens. On this trip, in addition to the tasting and panel discussion, he'll be visiting a mint farm and a hazelnut orchard, both export crops for the state.

With school children (and the school's goat) in Austin, TX.

His current position involved moving to Washington, D.C., a little over a year ago and working on the complexities of negotiations of trade agreements and regulations as they intersect with animal health, public health and food safety, animal welfare, and plant health. It also involves the difficult task of maneuvering around what he terms "red lines," or, as he describes it, "where it is objectively difficult to make progress or almost impossible." Those involve issues like hormones in meat or the use of certain chemicals in slaughterhouses, or the ability for the EU to export pasteurized dairy products like yogurt to the U.S.

Since coming to the United States, Terzi has noticed a definite shift toward products that are sold as sustainable, grass-fed, pasture-raised or non-GMO, though he said there is almost no visibility of those products in Europe. As for organic products, the U.S. and EU have been able to work out equivalent labeling and, he said, "wide areas [of grocery stores] are dedicated to these products both here and in the EU."

Terzi said that his passion for his work springs from his upbringing in a family of farmers in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy near Bologna. He still owns a small farm in the area and tries to make it back at least twice a year where, as he says, he has to fight with the weeds that seem determined to take it over. Should he win that battle, he said, he'd like to cultivate his current interest in the medicinal plants of the Mediterranean bush, and maybe some olive trees to support the olive production of his province.

"Farmers are farmers, both in the US and the EU," Terzi said. "They have hard work and to me they are heroes."

Find out what happened at the Taste of Europe panel and why Dr. Terzi, the lifelong diplomat, said that "there would be no barriers to trade between the European Union (EU) and the United States. Zero. None."

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