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16 April - The 34th World Expo opens in Milan on 1 May 2015. Under the title Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life, a collective of national states, multinationals and relief agencies assembled for the occasion will present the future of global agriculture, food and energy supply to millions of expected visitors. The occasion has also prompted Het Nieuwe Instituut and Slow Food to initiate The Mansholt Letter.

‘We are currently in a very severe crisis situation. What will our children and grandchildren think about the way we are now exhausting nature in all sorts of ways. […] It is not difficult at all. We know well what we need to do. […] The only question now is can we find enough people who are prepared to do it? And in that regard I am still somewhat pessimistic. I think that very hard lessons lie ahead, that we will get stuck somewhere. And then we will have to change, if it isn’t already too late.’ (Sicco Mansholt, 1975)

The key question at the heart of Expo Milano 2015 is: how can we supply the world’s population with sufficient, healthy and safe food while respecting the planet? As early as 1972, agriculture commissioner Sicco Mansholt had put this issue on the European political agenda. In an urgent letter to the chairman of the European Union, he argued for a radical change of ecological policy, needed to provide the world’s rapidly growing population with food in a sustainable and just manner. This insight conflicted with the unprecedented rationalisation and expansion of European agriculture, an issue on which he had only recently, in 1968, reached an agreement, and which still largely determines European agricultural policy.

Mansholt never received a reply to his letter, and although many people acknowledged the dangers, permanent solutions were never found. Forty years later, the contents of that letter are more relevant than ever, the limits that Mansholt had warned about have been reached, and the system threatens to become mired down, with major social, ecological and economic consequences. That prompted Het Nieuwe Instituut and Slow Food to send the letter again, this time to innovators in the food industry all over the world in order to jointly formulate a new agenda aimed at genuinely increasing the sustainability of our food system.

Expo Milano provides the setting where Het Nieuwe Instituut and Slow Food will bring together farmers, designers, policy makers and researchers in a varied programme of lectures, debates and interviews. The visions and insights formulated will be gathered and result in a letter to the chairman of the European Commission and to the Dutch Minister for Agriculture Dijksma, with a view to the upcoming Dutch chairmanship of the EU in the first half of 2016.

The Mansholt Letter

The Mansholt Letter. Expo Milano 2015 – 1 May to 31 October 2015. The Mansholt Letter is a project by Het Nieuwe Instituut in collaboration with Slow Food. The study can be followed at

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Het Nieuwe Instituut is the home of Dutch architecture, design and e-culture. In 2014 Het Nieuwe Instituut organised the exhibition Sicco Mansholt: A Good European about the rise and fall of, and radical remorse expressed by, Secretary of State for agriculture and EU commissioner Mansholt. In 2015 Het Nieuwe Instituut sheds light on the phenomenon of the World Expo in the programme Innovation at the World Expo: 1851 – Now. Following on from this, Het Nieuwe Instituut wants to address the underlying issue of the food industry within a social arena.

Slow Food

Slow Food is a worldwide movement of farmers, consumers and food professionals who aim to make tasty, pure and fair food available for everybody. At the Expo in Milan, Slow Food is programming a pavilion of its own and, to offer a dissenting view, bringing together a thousand young farmers and food producers during the We Feed the Planet event in October 2015.

Note for editors

For more information or images, please contact Gillian Engel of the Marketing, Communications & Commercial Department at Het Nieuwe Instituut: / 06 – 41506258