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By Sandra Cordon

10 marzo, 17:52
EXPO 2015 SIGNS DEAL TO SHOWCASE ITALIAN DELIGHTS (ANSA) - Rome, March 10 - A new protocol allowing Italian food and beverage producers to participate in Milan Expo 2015 was signed Monday, as organizers of the world's fair announced that 144 countries have now signed up for the event.

Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina, Expo Commissioner Giuseppe Sala and Diana Bracco, general commissioner for the Italian pavilion at Expo, signed the protocol clearing the way for greater Italian agrifood participation in the world's fair dedicated to sustainable nutrition around the globe.

The protocol sets out the procedures for contributions by agrifood and agricultural businesses, including new projects with a high degree of innovation that are to be presented during Expo, all of which is designed to help visitors better understand the role of the industries in Italian life.

Producers will be given space within the Italian pavilion, where facilities will also be provided for events and projects aimed at encouraging start-ups in the food and agriculture sector.

The agriculture ministry will also use space in the pavilion to promote educational programs for students interested in disciplines related to agriculture and agri-food.

Also through the Italian pavilion, a project to promote the Made In Italy brand, as well as labels confirming national production quality values, will be presented during Expo with a special focus on organic products and their certification.

It will all dovetail with the theme of Expo 2015: "Feeding the Planet - Energy for Life", which centers on fighting famine and malnutrition worldwide through sustainable and healthy development, global cooperation and new technology.

"We are very satisfied with the level of participation," Sala said at the presentation of a protocol for the Italian food and beverage industry. Expo 2015, which runs May 1 until October 31 of that year, is expected to attract over 20 million visitors and to be a massive money spinner for Italy's business capital.

Preparations on a 1.1-million-square-meter site have been underway for years.

Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus-themed Expo in Genoa.

Organizers of Expo 2015 were aiming to reach at least 130 member countries and are on pace to sign up considerably more than that, with 144 agreements now in hand.

Sala said he was also hoping that a very significant and sizeable player, the United States, will sign up for the Expo when US President Barack Obama visits Italy and the Vatican on March 27.

But Sala also warned against taking anything for granted as some countries may change their minds about participating, possibly states with budget concerns.

Expo's focus on food and sustainable development as well regional specialties is designed to attract international interest, with each pavilion responsible for developing its own particular offerings to catch the eye of visitors drawn from around the globe, said Sala.

"The contents of the event are the responsibility of different countries; today, for example, we received the (participation agreement) of Grenada, the Caribbean island which is the queen of spices".

The Italian pavilion will also put wine under the spotlight, Sala added but stressed that Expo "is not a commercial fair, but is aimed at discovering the qualities of different countries".

Expo's emphasis on food security will provide a strong link to teach healthy eating habits in schools, "and lower the dramatic obesity rates recorded in Italy and Europe," said Education Minister Stefania Giacomini on Monday.

"We need to make youths understand that it is necessary to eat well, as well as not overeat," she said.

Meanwhile, politicians from the 5-Star Movement (M5S) said that on Saturday, a group of parliamentarians intends to inspect the Expo site in Milan along with municipal and regional councilors from the area.

But the M5S, led by former comedian Beppe Grillio, suggested in a press release that it has made up its mind that Expo is a boondoggle.

"Unnecessary work, disproportionate costs, land use, waste, high environmental impact and damage to the health of citizens...these are the key words of the universal exhibition in Milan," said the M5S press release.

"The goal is to see clearly and denounce what really lurks beneath the Expo: huge urban (property) speculation disguised as an international event for 'feeding the planet',"said the M5S statement.