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Criminal Taste: Food, Agro-Mafia & Counterfeiting

Stories of legality from virtuous agricultural and food supply chains

‘“Loving the Earth” isn’t just a slogan,’ said Daniele Buttignol, secretary general of Slow Food Italia, ‘it also has to be a way of interpreting life and influencing our daily behavior, most of all when we’re doing our shopping and deciding what food to put on our tables. Only with commitment from everyone can we truly revolutionize the way we produce and distribute food that is truly good, clean and fair. When we speak about food, we can’t avoid addressing issues such as social justice and legality, which are fundamental if we are to take a stand and support virtuous producers who we often don’t know about and who live in isolation. Slow Food not only promotes but also backs all those producers who make social justice a distinctive feature of their work, and during Terra Madre Salone del Gusto we want everyone to hear about them.’

People who oppose the ‘ndrangheta crime organization make better earnings,’ argued Vincenzo Linarello, president of the Goel cooperative group, which has established Goel Bio in the Locri area of Calabria to unite and support businesses determined not to give in to blackmail. ‘We guarantee a fair price to the 30 farms in our network that produce citrus fruit, oil and chili. For oranges, for example, we pay 40 cents a kilo as opposed to the 5 cents that led to the riots in Rosarno. In exchange we demand a ban on sweated labor, any violation of which is punished with a €10,000 fine and expulsion from the cooperative.’

Yesterday, on the opening day of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, we spoke with Don Luigi Ciotti, founder of the anti-Mafia association Libera, and Giancarlo Caselli, president of the Observatory on the fight against agricultural and food crime, about how easy it is for criminal organizations to enter the food supply chain and take over goods and resources that are common property. ‘Laws in force on agriculture and food are criminogenic in nature, and there’s everything to gain by not obeying them. We need to eliminate the legal loopholes,’ suggested Giancarlo Caselli.

Intervention is also necessary to support those working among dangers and countless difficulties to tackle criminal systems, like the people committed to defending the common good represented by land clawed back from Mafia organizations. ‘We grow organic produce on confiscated land,’ explained Raffaella Conci, president of the Terre Joniche cooperative in Crotone. ‘We set great store by its quality. But it’s not only good, but also clean and fair. So anyone who buys them knows they are promoting an economy that respects the environment and workers.’

Rosario Gugliotta, president of Slow Food Sicily, explained how at the Parco dei Nebrodi, a regional park on the island, they have created ‘Nebrodi Sicily,’ a trademark to identify and reward producers with ‘anti-Mafia certificates.’ ‘It may sound obvious, but in a place where the Mafia is rife it isn’t,’ he said. It may also be a cause of annoyance. The park’s president Giuseppe Antoci has been shot at, and there was an arson attempt on the house of the parents of Alessandro Ciccolella, manager of the Torre Guaceto reserve management consortium in Apulia. Ciccolella was being punished his commitment to protecting the reserve and its fishing from private interests by only admitting licensed fishermen. ‘It’s a tough job,’ he says, ‘but it gives me a lot of pleasure. When we organize blind tasting tests in schools, pupils always choose our fish, never the frozen stuff. This shows how awareness is growing, especially among small kids.’ There is no shortage of exemplary stories in one of the industries in which caporalato, the illegal hiring of farm hands for very low wages, is most common, namely tomatoes. ‘Since the early years of this century, when we started to make our producers obey hard and fast workplace regulations, our cooperative’s sales have grown from €3 billion then to €10 million today,’ said Salvatore dell’Arte, president of the Aurora cooperative in Pachino, in Sicily, which now boasts an agreement with Coop whereby the latter buys and distributes its members’ tomatoes under the ‘Fiorfiore’ trademark.

The time has come for our institutions to do more. As Caselli explained, ‘A bill designed to punish food adulteration and fully protect the consumer has been sitting in justice minister Orland’s drawer for more than a year. The goal can only be achieved with one tool alone: a narrative label telling the whole truth and explaining everything about the food product it is affixed to: the origin of the ingredients and the production and distribution systems. Only in this way will citizens be able to make informed choices.

But we shouldn’t get justice mixed up with legality,’ intervened Don Luigi Ciotti. ‘Legality is a prerequisite, but the aim is justice. One way of ensuring more justice is to start from education, from food education, for example, which also helps us to avoid consuming a small part of ourselves.’

As Nino Pascale, president of Slow Food Italia, concluded, ‘To speak about food and water is to speak about rights. And rights should come before profits.’

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
Official Partners
Supporters of the Terra Madre Foundation and Slow Food
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Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
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