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Yale Symposium on Olive Oil and Health: Nourishing People, Healing the Planet

The National Herald Archive

Dr. Vasilis Vasiliou (left) and Tassos C. Kyriakides of the School of Public Health of Yale University with Maria Baklava, CEO of Noema Solutions, in charge of communications for the Symposium. (Photo: Courtesy of Noema Solutions)

DELPHI - The 2nd International Yale Symposium on Olive Oil and Health was held at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi

December 1- 4. The School of Public Health (SPH) of Yale University gathered producers and scientists for panels and networking events that facilitated the exchange of information and the establishment of relationships critical to the progress of one of Greece’s vital industries.

The distinguished guests were welcomed in Konstantinos Karamanlis Hall of the EEC by Drs. Vasilis Vasiliou and Tassos C. Kyriakides of SPH, who thanked all who contributed to the organizing and funding of the Symposium.

The importance of the topic being obvious in a Greece still in crisis, Kyriakides explained his and Vasiliou’s personal motivations for launching the Symposium, whose first instance was in 2018 at Yale. “I said to him ‘we must do something about the oil’” the renowned and vital Greek olive oil. Athanasios Panayiotopoulos, past mayor of Delphi, who was instrumental in Delphi hosting the event, added “this is a celebration of Greek olive oil.”

The National Herald

Seen in this photo are Dr. Vasilis Vasiliou and the students – who cooked for the Symposium – of Chef Giannis Baxevanis from the culinary institute, which was a sponsor of the Symposium. (Photo: courtesy of Noema Solutions)

Mauroudis Voridis, Greece’s Minister of Rural Development and Food also emphasized the economic and cultural importance of the olive growing region – known for its fine characteristics and high quality – by citing the designation of Delphi as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. “The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke,” is a place “blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning…the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world,” according to the UNESCO site.

The keynote address was presented December 2 by Jaime Lillo, International Olive Council of Spain and was titled The Role of Olives in a Changing Climate. The first presentation of the Symposium was by Nikos Thymakis, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Greece, and was titled Elaionia Landscapes: Hellenic Monumental Olive Trees as Cultural Elements through Agricultural Practice and Landscape Architecture.

The sessions, which comprised panels and roundtable discussions included topics such as: Nutrition: Clinical And Home Cooking Perspectives; Olive Products And Derivatives: Research Frontiers; Sustainability: Olive Oil By-products, Farming, Financial Viability; Reaching Your Market; Diversity: Exploration Of Cultivars, Olive Oil Styles & Demographics.

The National Herald Archive

Seen in this photo are Dr. Vasilis Vasiliou and the students – who cooked for the Symposium – of Chef Giannis Baxevanis from the culinary institute, which was a sponsor of the Symposium. (Photo: courtesy of Noema Solutions)

International participants hailed from Spain, Brazil, Italy, and the United States.

During the sessions emphasis was given both to the opportunities for developing the production and export prospects of the olive industry and to the challenges it faces. In the short term the latter include repercussions from the current trade war policies of the United States – while Greek olives and oil are exempted, the international market has been nevertheless disrupted.

Long term, climate change poses a grave threat. Olive trees have been harmed by rises in temperature and humidity and increased disease activity, and more damage is feared – a topic that Dr. Vasiliou said the participants in the Symposium will continue to address.

Kyriakides stressed that olive trees have healing qualities not only for individuals, but for the planet as a whole as the trees strongly withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The endeavor was supported by officials of local, regional, and national government. Also attending the opening on Sunday evening, December 1 were Fanis Spanos, Regional Governor of Central Greece, Panagiotis Tagalis, Mayor of Delphi, and Virginia Stergiou, Mayor of Stylida.

The Symposium’s other events included a networking dinner sponsored by AKMI, Lunch (at the village of Chrisso) sponsored by V. &. V. Kanatas, local olive oil producer, and a dinner in the city of Amfissa sponsored by the Municipality of Delphi.

Chef Giannis Baxevanis and his students from the culinary institute ‘ΑΚΜΗ’, which was a sponsor, cooked for the Symposium using the award-winning Sakellaropoulos organic olive oil from Sparta.