Greek Minister Tsaftaris: Sustainable Food Production Should Be a Basic Element of Our Civilization

Today, just as the E.U. is heatedly debating the Common Agricultural Policy, I stumbled upon these videos which are a real gem for those of us concerned about food production, because they say so much that is applicable to everyone, everywhere. In the subtitled videos which were made several months ago, a Greek citizen by the name of Pavlos Georgiadis travels around in his unreliable yellow Citroen bug car, and interviews some of Greece’s younger people who have sought hope and opportunity in their nation’s countryside after seeing the hopelessness of ever becoming employed in the urban areas.

But, they need help…

The gist of the story is that 1.5 million younger people in Greece, many with college degrees, want to farm during this aftermath of Greece’s financial crisis. Their problem is the limited availability of water, the cost of power, fertilizer, and petroleum. Some of them expressed the opinion that Greece prefers to import food instead of produce it, making the nation food insecure. The film is a visual feast, especially if you like the Mediterranean diet. Pavlos visits a farm allotment having 100-year old grape vines, a snail farm, a vegetable farm, a greenhouse growing bananas, and a large dairy, interviewing each of the farmers to find out what they are doing and what their concerns are.

One farmer discusses an Ag policy in Greece over the past several decades that has supported the production of a few monoculture crops like cotton. This seems a terrible waste given their climate and good Thessalian Plain soil.

In the fourth video, Georgiadis visits with Greek Rural Development and Food Minister, Athanasios Tsaftaris, who is representing Greece in the negotiations for the reform of the new E.U. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Georgiadis and Tsaftaris recognize that the younger generation would like to be able to profit in the countryside through producing quality food, not by increasing the amount of production. The Minister discusses climate change with him. He says that Greece is seeing water scarcity along with increased flooding, and new diseases such as a fungus which is wiping out Chestnut forests, new pests on crops, and even NEW FISH seen by fishermen.

When asked “Is this compatible with the concept of sustainability?” the Minister answers, “We have to respect the future generations. This is the meaning of sustainability. The way that our generation depletes natural resources and misuses the inputs for the production process raises production costs and causes harm to the environment …to manage the production process more sustainably is also a basic element of our civilization. We should not be driven by over-consumption or else we will harm the environment so much to the point where the process becomes irreversible.”

Now, back to the subject of the contentious debate going on in the E.U. over their Ag policy negotiations. The legislation now has over 350 amendments and the greening of the bill has been scaled back greatly, as expected. In spite of fairly severe proposed cuts, the CAP budget will still account for nearly 40% of the E.U.’s budget in 2014-2020.

The debate is going on today and the full Parliament vote on the four pieces of legislation is tomorrow.

This comes at a time when more extreme weather events are requiring strong safety nets for farmers, many want to see healthy food production that is produced sustainably, austerity measures are requiring budget cut-backs, and nations want to increase their Ag exports to help their fiscal situations.

I hope that you enjoy watching this set of videos as much as I did.

Videoblog on CAP | Episode 1: Food Security from foodpolitics on Vimeo.

Videoblog on CAP | Episode 2: Young Farmers from foodpolitics on Vimeo.

Videoblog on CAP | Episode 3: Environment from foodpolitics on Vimeo.

Videoblog on CAP | Episode 4: Epilogue from foodpolitics on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “Greek Minister Tsaftaris: Sustainable Food Production Should Be a Basic Element of Our Civilization

  1. Anthony Boutard


    Thanks for the links to these videos. About a year ago, there was a BBC report on the integration of Turkey into the E.U. One of the big stumbling blocks was the fact that the country had too many people engaged in agriculture, about 25% of the population if I recall correctly. In a chilling, a matter-of-fact way, an analyst declared that Turkey would have to drive that down to 5% in order to have an efficient economy from the European perspective. That would free up the labor force for industrial development.

    I may have the numbers off, but policy is clear; quality food production is a low priority compared to industrial production. Turkish markets have a stunning diversity of fruits, vegetables and nuts, and pushing labor out of agriculture necessarily leads to a simplification and loss of that variety. Unfortunately, the policy analyst in Brussels does not measure a nation’s wealth in the diversity of its peppers, eggplants and indigenous wheat varieties. Perhaps the financial crisis in Greece may leave the Turks wondering why they need E.U. membership, and fewer pepper varieties.

    As it was Luddite Thursday, it is worth noting that the Citroën 2CV in the film clip was specifically designed as a farm car. Originally designated the TPV (toute petite voiture) in the 1930’s, it was engineered to operate efficiently for carrying farm produce to market. For example, the suspension was tuned on the rough, post WWI roads by putting a basket with a gross (144) of eggs in the back, and deemed perfect when no eggs broke. The soft top allowed objects of an irregular shape, a heifer or ewe for example, to fit in the car. The air-cooled engine was efficient and easy to maintain. It was designed for farm women to drive as the war had killed off or maimed a whole generation of men. WWII interrupted the 2CV’s development, and it finally hit the streets in 1948, with the last of the cars rolling off the line in 1990. To the end, it came equipped with a hand crank just in case the farmer forgets to turn off the lights, another practical touch.

    As an owner of a 2CV who still occasionally uses it to deliver produce from the farm, I find it is a reliable and practical sardine tin. Incidentally, one of its its nicknames was the “tin snail” which I think the snail farmers were joking about, though my Greek is nonexistent. The body designed by the sculptor Flaminio Bertoni, and is a fine example of a friendly, nonaggressive set of lines; you just have to smile when you see one.


    Anthony Boutard
    Ayers Creek Farm

    1. K. McDonald Post author

      What an interesting note, both about turkey and the Citroën 2CV. I was reading along wondering how you knew so much about them, until you explained that you have one!

      Thanks for your insights!


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