The Italian parliament has approved new legislation establishing an "Organic Made in Italy" label as well as a national strategy to support organic production across the agricultural sector. The law recognizes organic production's unique role in social development and environmental sustainability.
It also funds organic farming research and encourages producers to form new strategic alliances. The expansion of organic food production will also be supported by a special financing tool, the funds for which will primarily come from a two percent "pollution tax" levied on companies authorized to sell potentially harmful phytosanitary products to the environment.
The new law also encourages the production of organic foods in both domestic and international markets. As a result, all public canteens and government-funded institutions will recommend organic options.
According to Coldiretti, the major farming association, the value of Italian organic food in 2021 will be €7.5 billion. In addition, total organic food sales have increased by 122 percent in the last ten years.
"We will be able to further implement organic production in agrifood and all connected production chains thanks to the new law," said Francesco Battistoni, undersecretary at the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry. "In terms of organic product exports, Italy ranks second only to the United States on the global market."
Battistoni also emphasized the importance of adopting a national organic food production strategy for environmental reasons.
Organic food production is defined in the new law as an agricultural system that focuses on sustainability and restoring the natural environment while promoting human and animal well-being through food safety and ecosystem protection.
Organic olive growers in Italy told Olive Oil Times that they hope the new law will help to sustain a sector that has grown steadily in recent decades due to the rising demand for healthy organic food.
"Our organic family olive farm has continued to develop in recent years," Patrizio Di Carlo, general manager of Podere Panolfo in Umbria, informed. Panolfo was one of the first farms to have its extra virgin olive oil recognized as Umbria PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) by the European Union in 1998.
"Italy is one of the most important producers of organic agrifood, and many olive oil producers are organic," said Di Carlo. "However, organic extra virgin olive oil should be promoted because organic producers have a positive impact on the environment and the sustainability of olive farming."
"When it comes to high quality, the first question to ask is whether the extra virgin olive oil was produced organically or conventionally," he added. "Because quality is determined not only by polyphenols and flavours, but also by the overall approach to farming, sustainability, and actions such as eliminating plastics or ensuring that workers can rely on the safety and a respectful working environment."
According to data from the Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea), organic farms account for approximately 200,000 hectares of the more than one million hectares dedicated to olive growing in Italy.
One of the objectives of the new Italian strategy is to encourage small food-producing companies to switch to organic farming. The initiative is important for the olive industry because 97 percent of all olive farming businesses in the country are managed by a single person.
In addition, the new law established a "technical roundtable for organic farming." It will identify solutions and priorities for implementing the national organic farming strategy, including new plans for converting conventional agrifood companies to organic farming and assisting new organic farmers.
The Italian organic farmers' associations emphasized the new law's strategic importance, claiming that it will provide new business opportunities to younger generations and add value to rural areas while also preserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change.
"After 15 years in the making, the new law is critical to supporting agroecological conversion, allowing Italy to take advantage of the economic support dedicated to this certified sustainable agriculture to grow the sector both in terms of production and consumption," said five of Italy's leading organic farmers' associations in a press release.
"Thanks to this law," the associations added, "organic farming can become the engine for relaunching the entire agri-food sector." "Italy has a strong organic vocation, which must be increased and enhanced through investments in research, innovation, training, and communication if it is to remain a European leader."
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