The agri-food sector is a priority area of investment for organized crime, with a dangerous impact not only on the economy but also on the health of citizens, the environment and the territory of the country, as evidenced by the fourth report on agri-food crimes in Italy, prepared by the Institute for Political, Social and Economic Studies (Eurispes), the Italian Farmers’ Organization Coldiretti and The Observatory on Crime in Agriculture and Agri-food Systems.
The report was presented at the Rospigliosi Palace Congress Centre, Coldiretti’s headquarters in Rome.
After an introduction of Gian Carlo Caselli, a former prosecutor who achieved significant results against organized crime and is now president of the scientific committee of the Observatory, speeches were given by the president of Eurispes, Gian Maria Fara; the minister of justice, Andrea Orlando; the minister of agriculture, Maurizio Martina; the vice president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Giovanni Legnini; the president of the Anti-mafia Parliamentary Commission, Rosy Bindi; the president of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, Raffaele Cantone and the president of Coldiretti, Roberto Moncalvo.
The business of Agromafia reached a turnover of €16 billion in 2015 and observing what happens in food production and distribution can give the idea that Italy is the cradle of illegality.
On the contrary, the report shows how the country developed an excellent system of investigation, enough to become the leader of agri-food security in Europe. No other country has the same quantity and quality of controls, the report concluded — that’s why so many irregularities are detected.
Different specialized law enforcement agencies, like the Anti-adulteration and Health Unit of the Carabinieri (Nas), Carabinieri Antifraud-Unit (NAC) Organized Crime Investigation Service of Financial Police (SCICO), the State Forestry Corp and the Central Inspectorate for the protection of quality and fraud prevention of food product (ICQRF) and the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department (DIA) performed more than 100,000 checks last year.
Olive oil is one of the most sensitive sectors, according to the report, which begins with an examination of the Xylella fastidiosa emergency calling for a thorough investigation of those who might be responsible for the magnitude of the crisis.
Regarding production, in addition to the dramatic drop recorded in 2014, “the vertiginous growth of imports at the same time increases the risk of counterfeiting of Italian products.” But the excellent results of harvest 2015, 46 percent higher than the previous one, permitted a recovery in all regions. With the intensification of controls, the competent authorities obtained “a lot of victorious actions against food fraud, usurpation and phenomena of Italian sounding against the Made in Italy brand and consumers.”
The report revealed that so called “Italian sounding” names, trademarks and images that evoke Italy to fraudulently promote and sell products not at all related to country achieved an annual illicit revenue of €60 billion and constitute almost two in three products falsely labeled as Made in Italy.
“The increasing expansion of the sale of food products online suggests with urgency the theme of security, therefore not only the traceability of products, but also a real certification of identity,” the report declared. Considering that one Italian customer in five shops online, “the ‘certified identity’ now takes on a new, decisive centrality.”
“Specific, effective and immediate, rules” are now required, with the convenient support of EU in some aspects of legislation. In this regard, the Commission for the elaboration of measures on the reform of agri-food crimes established by the Ministry of Justice and led by Gian Carlo Caselli, has recently submitted a bill (coining a new crime of agropiracy) that calls for a “renewed criminal law, less repressive and more careful in protecting the consumer, able to interpret the challenges of globalization without forgetting the added value of the territorial features, with the ultimate, non-negotiable goal to protect people’s health.”