HOW TO FIGHT AGROPIRACY: THE CASE OF BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA PGI AT THE SOL&AGRIFOOD OPENING CEREMONY IN VERONA
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI stole the show at yesterday morning’s opening ceremony of Sol&Agrifood, the agri-food excellence exhibition running alongside Vinitaly at VeronaFiere until 13 April. Minister of Agricultural Policy Maurizio Martina also attended, underlining the vision of agri-food as “a heritage to protect with institutions moving towards trackability and regional traceability to tackle the phenomenon of “Italian-sounding” branding, which not only hits producers from a financial and reputational point of view, but also deceives consumers”.
Part of the opening conference entitled “Agropiracy: when Italy can defend itself”, was devoted to the case history of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, in the wake of recent judgements issued by German magistrates to protect this original product. Telling the story was Consortium Director Federico Desimoni: “These moments of reflection and discussion are important because they help us set aside commonplaces, easy complaints, and instead focus objectively on the strong and weak points of the situation at hand. In this particular area, we must go beyond simply continuing to acknowledge the serious problem of counterfeit, imitations, the evocation of Italian products and the notorious “Italian-sounding” branding, and recognise that within the European Community things are changing and we can already see concrete signs of a cultural shift: the underhand behaviour of those wishing to commit fraud, deceive, imitate or potentially remain ambiguous, is being increasingly stigmatised and condemned by official bodies, European and national magistrates first and foremost, but not only these. We must emphasise with satisfaction that we already have highly useful and efficient tools for defending our products, the rights of consumers and the world of production. What we need are resources that enable everyone to follow suit. This is where our experience comes in, which we willingly share to help other industries follow in our footsteps.” Mr Desimoni went on to cite the reasons for the German ruling which has paved the way for Community-wide protection. “Thanks to the 30 pages of reasons for the Consortium’s case, now Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can apply the principle of the ruling in all EU countries. And every precedent, such as ours, has a protective impact on other products.”
The data published on the MiPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) website regarding the activities of its anti-fraud organisation – the Ispettorato Centrale Repressione Frodi (ICQRF) – in 2015 reconfirm the authorities’ ongoing commitment to get rid of malpractices in the agri-food industry. 36,864 checks undertaken, 53,490 products and 24,003 producers verified, 4,052 sanctions and 2,786 injunctions raised, 255 criminal records filed, 676 cases of goods seized totaling an overall value of 68 million euro for around 77,000 tonnes of products (information source: Report ICQRF 2015). A large proportion of agri-food fraud in concentrated on the internet (in 2015 alone, ICQRF made 561 cases against usurpation and evocation) and MiPAAF is the only authority to have agreements with eBay and Alibaba to remove false PDO and PGI claims from their online shops. One of the most targeted products is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, with illegal marketing on Alibaba being the most detected by the Aliprotect system: rice vinegar, sold as “Baslsamic vinegar Modena” and only later renamed with the correct commercial denomination.
This appraisal of the risks and opportunities in the international markets and the battle against “Italian Sounding” branding to conquer new market quotas, also involved Giancarlo Caselli, magistrate and now president of the Observatory on Criminality in Agriculture and the Agri-food System along with Colomba Mongiello, Vice President of the parliamentary commission of inquiry into commercial counterfeit and piracy, who was invited to lead the debate.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena remains a main attraction at Vinitaly, with its sensory, “theatrical” tasting session in collaboration with the Associazione Koiné – sustainable theatre – at the stand of Consorzio di Tutela del Lambrusco di Modena in the Emilia Romagna section.