Italy Set to Deal Major Blow to 'Agribusiness Pirates'

A new law would protect Italian agriculture by letting prosecutors pursue frauds anywhere in the supply chain.

Mar. 3, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

A broad and com­plex new law pro­posed by the Italian gov­ern­ment and sent to Parliament for approval is aimed at fight­ing frauds in the agri­cul­ture prod­uct chain.

We as small pro­duc­ers can­not com­pete even if we are the ones with the true Italian prod­uct.- Pietro Maiorana, an olive farmer in Sicily

The bill intro­duces new crim­i­nal penal­ties for those who pro­duce, trans­form, pack­age, dis­trib­ute, sell or profit from agri­cul­tural prod­ucts that falsely claim to be made in Italy.

Several years in the mak­ing, the pro­posed law coined agribusi­ness piracy” for the crime com­mit­ted by orga­ni­za­tions that define their prod­ucts as organic when they are not, or enter­prises that lie about the true ori­gin of their prod­ucts. Prosecutors say they will go after offend­ers in Italy and abroad.

A new frame­work to pro­tect the Italian extra vir­gin olive oil from forgery has been one of the main goals of the spe­cial Agrimafia Commission that pro­duced the text of the pro­posed law.

For years, grow­ers asso­ci­a­tions lamented that true Italian EVOO often ended up in inter­na­tional mar­kets after hav­ing been mixed up with olive oils from dif­fer­ent ori­gins. As a result, many true Italian pro­duc­ers have had to com­pete with olive oils labeled as Italian” but were com­prised of oils from Tunisia, Spain Greece and oth­ers.

A process known as tri­an­gu­la­tion” con­sists of import­ing usu­ally large quan­ti­ties of olive oil, pro­duc­ing false cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and pack­ag­ing it as 100-per­cent Italian.” The pro­posed law defines the prac­tice as an assault on the agribusi­ness sec­tor.

See Also: Olive Oil Fraud

Triangulation means unfair com­pe­ti­tion, it means that we as small pro­duc­ers can­not com­pete even if we are the ones with the true Italian prod­uct,” Pietro Maiorana, a small olive oil pro­ducer in Sicily, told Olive Oil Times. We have been ask­ing for real and deep mas­sive checks on the import of dis­counted olive oils from other regions.”

As it stands now, fraud can only be pros­e­cuted when the final prod­uct hits the mar­ket. With the new law under con­sid­er­a­tion, it will be pos­si­ble to act with the same legal force at any time in the pro­duc­tion chain, from the farm to the super­mar­ket shelf.

Italian farm­ers, who con­sulted law­mak­ers through­out the bil­l’s draft­ing, are hope­ful. It is a major step, they say, but the strug­gle against crim­i­nals in the agribusi­ness is far from over.

Organized crime in agri­cul­ture oper­ates by steal­ing means of pro­duc­tion and ani­mals, by black­mail­ing or even con­di­tion­ing the choice of work­ers to enroll on the field, trans­porta­tion or guard ser­vices to rent, or else by dam­ag­ing the fields and also through aggres­sions, usury, ille­gal slaugh­ter­ing and frauds against the European Union,” the farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti said in a state­ment.

Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova said the new law rec­og­nizes the value of food iden­tity and pro­tects the Made in Italy geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions and the con­sumers.”

The forgery of the Made in Italy every year costs our coun­try €100 bil­lion ($110 bil­lion), which has to be com­pared to the €42 bil­lion ($46 bil­lion) of true Italian agribusi­ness exports — an iden­tity theft that dam­ages our pro­duc­ers, under­mines con­sumers’ health and may dete­ri­o­rate the rep­u­ta­tion of our coun­try.”



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