Italy proposes new law to fight agribusiness piracy

The Italian government is proposing a new law aimed at fighting fraud in the agricultural production chain, Olive Oil Times reported on 3 March.

The bill would introduce 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 and now sent to Parliament for approval, the proposed law used the phrase ‘agribusiness piracy’ for crimes committed by organisations that falsely described their products as organic or enterprises that had lied about the origin of their products, Olive Oil Times said. Prosecutors said they would target offenders both in Italy and overseas.

A new framework to protect Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from forgery had been one of the main goals of the special Agrimafia Commission which had produced the text of the proposed law.

For years, growers associations had lamented the fact that true Italian EVOO often ended up in international markets after being mixed with olive oils from different origins. As a result, many true Italian producers had had to compete with olive oils labelled as ‘Italian’ but which comprised oils from Tunisia, Spain, Greece and others.

A process known as ‘triangulation’ consisted of importing usually large quantities of olive oil, producing false certifications and packaging it as ‘100% Italian’. The proposed law defined the practice as an assault on the agribusiness sector.

“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.”

Currently, fraud can only be prosecuted when the final product hits the market. With the new law under consideration, it would be possible to act with the same legal force at any time in the production chain.