The sixth edi­tion of a report on orga­nized crime in the food sec­tor has been released after a year of joint work by Eurispes, Coldiretti, and the Observatory on Crime in Agriculture and on the Agri-Food System.

The annual report aims to pre­dict changes and trends in the agri-food sec­tor at a global level, pro­vid­ing an overview on the mea­sures and meth­ods of pre­ven­tion and pro­tec­tion against fraud and other acts of decep­tion.

Those who man­age the crim­i­nal sec­tor that inter­sects with the agri-food chain took off the ‘army clothes’ to wear the ‘suit.’- Gian Carlo Caselli, Osservatorio Agromafie Foundation and Gian Maria Fara, Eurispes

According to the for­mer pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor Gian Carlo Caselli, who chairs the sci­en­tific com­mit­tee of the Osservatorio Agromafie Foundation, and the pres­i­dent of Eurispes, Gian Maria Fara, the phe­nom­e­non known as Mafia 3.0 is one of the lead­ing chal­lenges fac­ing the sec­tor.

“Those who man­age the crim­i­nal sec­tor that inter­sects with the agri-food chain took off the ‘army clothes’ to wear the ‘suit,’ suc­ceed­ing in dis­cov­er­ing and reap­ing the ben­e­fits of glob­al­iza­tion, new tech­nolo­gies, eco­nom­ics, and finance,” the two said.

See more: Olive Oil Fraud

Within the con­text of more mod­ern and com­pli­cated sup­ply chains, crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions are increas­ingly “more inter­ested in devel­op­ing coop­er­a­tive busi­nesses than in fight­ing each other,” the offi­cials said.

The intel­li­gent struc­ture of the Mafia 3.0 is at the cross­roads of var­i­ous ser­vices required by dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions, “accept­ing their finan­cial resources in order to enhance and increase them through means that appear to be law­ful.”

The agri-food sec­tor is, there­fore, an easy vic­tim of con­di­tion­ing and pen­e­tra­tion. According to the report, Mafia 3.0 has expe­ri­enced a 12.4‑percent increase in annual turnover, with rev­enues ris­ing to €24.5 bil­lion per year.

“Being able to exer­cise con­trol over one or more large buy­ers means being able to influ­ence the pro­duc­tion and, con­se­quently, the price, as well as own­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion chains or super­mar­kets makes it pos­si­ble to deter­mine the suc­cess of a prod­uct,” Fara and Caselli said.

In order to limit these agri-food rack­ets, the report rec­om­mended updat­ing the leg­is­la­tion on agri-food.

However, scrutiny and reg­u­la­tions over the sec­tor have increased in recent years. According to offi­cial sta­tis­tics, Italy has become the lead­ing reporter of sus­pi­cious activ­ity to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. Last year, the coun­try filed 551 reports, equiv­a­lent to 14.4 per­cent of the total sent to the European Commission.

Overall, grow­ing demand for trans­parency and qual­ity of the pro­duc­tion chain has led agri-food sec­tor stake­hold­ers to increas­ingly con­sider vol­un­tary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, in addi­tion to those cur­rently in force.

Among these is blockchain tech­nol­ogy, which can be used to mon­i­tor every stage of the sup­ply chain in real time.

The Agromafia report also shows that as tech­nol­ogy evolves, new chal­lenges arise. For exam­ple, a grow­ing num­ber of con­sumer have become more aware of the health ben­e­fits of cer­tain food prod­ucts, includ­ing olive oil. As a result, a pro­lif­er­a­tion of fake news and mis­in­for­ma­tion has fol­lowed in order to profit off of this healthy eat­ing trend.

“What hap­pens if a fun­da­men­tal part of our lifestyle is strongly influ­enced by false infor­ma­tion, cir­cu­lat­ing on the web and social media, hav­ing an impact on what we put on the table and, con­se­quently, on the way we take care of our health,” Fara and Caselli asked.

Opinions of indi­vid­u­als can be affected to such an extent that the World Economic Forum has included fake news in the list of global risks.

The best way to defend against fake news is to always check the truth­ful­ness of the infor­ma­tion using var­i­ous fact-check­ing web­sites as well as com­mon sense and crit­i­cal think­ing, the report said.




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