Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Georgofili is a compound word made up of two terms, georgo and filo and means “for the love of agriculture” or “friends of agriculture”.

The academy’s emblem contains the symbols of agriculture dedicated to the goddess Ceres (an ear of wheat, an olive branch and a bunch of grapes) as well as those associated with economic activity and commerce dedicated to the god Mercury (a caduceus: a winged wand with twined snakes).

Even the motto Prosperitati Publicae Augendae (to increase public welfare) highlights how the Georgofili Academy’s activities have always been focused on the public interest.

Beware of vegan diets for newborn babies

News of children sent to hospital with severe forms of malnutrition due to a vegan diet imposed by their parents has begun to multiply. The vegan ideology, and its most uncompromising version (fruitarian), is affecting more and more people, usually from highly educated groups. These food choices may be understandable, even if not justifiable, for adults, but forcing children to adopt a diet lacking in animal-derived products may expose them to severe risks for their health and psycho-physical development.
We are talking about ideology because, after being weaned, herbivores in nature are anatomically and physiologically equipped to digest vegetable fibers and proteins with the help of bacteria and protozoans that produce both proteins having a high biological value, like those contained in meat as well as the especially indispensable B-group vitamins. Being omnivores that developed in a food niche where meat had a fundamental role (we were hunter-gatherers for millions of years), humans cannot synthesize these essential nutrients. Thus if they eat only vegetables, they must use artificial food supplements whose efficacy in terms of nutrient bioavailability cannot be compared to that of foods. 

Bioeconomy: an important driving force for economic and industrial revival

The world’s population is bound to increase further. It is estimated that there will be at least 9 billion people by 2050 and that agricultural production will have to rise by at least 70% to feed them. At the same time, some of the traditional, non-renewable commodities are starting to run out. It is estimated that we currently consume natural resources as if we had at our disposal a planet and a half and that if the whole world consumed the same amount of natural resources as the average of the OECD countries, it would be as if we had three planets instead of one. One possible solution is represented by greater and better development of biological and renewable resources to produce greater quantities of higher quality foods and fodder, but also chemical and fuels thus guaranteeing food safety and quality, reduced environmental pollution and climate change as well as new market and employment opportunities. 
Bioeconomy’s priorities include agriculture, forestry, sustainable fishing and aquaculture, food safety and quality, paper and forest production, bioindustry and biorefineries, and the management and promotion of marine resources and internal waters. Bioeconomy is an important pillar of the European economy, with an annual turnover of 2.1 trillion euro and about 20 million jobs, and of the Italian economy, with an annual turnover  of about 250 billion euro and 2 million jobs.

Nanotechnology on the table

Nanomaterials are materials with at least one of measurements between one and one hundred nanometers. A nanometer (i.e., one millionth of a millimeter) is fifty thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and so we are in a universe invisible to the human eye. It is a solid whose surface is one-centimeter square. If we divide this solid into millions of particles, the surface increases by a millionfold, and hence there is a huge increase in surface area and thus a better use of their properties, with a drastic reduction in the quantity used. Nanomaterials have applications in various fields - electronics, pharmaceuticals, energy, environment, food, packaging, textiles, cosmetics, etc. - which have not yet been fully explored still today.
The physical properties of materials and nanocomposites in particular also affect foods, in an orientation that tends to favor physical rather than chemical treatments, with the latter being increasingly opposed by the public. The possible food applications of nanomaterials are diverse, covering also food and especially their packaging for now.