The recent Italian government crisis hit us just when we were yet again gearing up to ask our Ministers to move as quickly as possible and set up a National Food Safety Authority. Not long before, an appeal promoted by the Genetic Rights Foundation and signed by almost all the Italian environmental, consumer and food interests received a response from the Minister, Livia Turco, who had taken up the question with her relevant colleagues.
Now that glimmer of hope risks being eclipsed and one of the most pressing issues in the Italian food arena may be put on the back burner for who knows how long. Every member state of the EU is expected to have a National Food Safety Authority, ever since the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established—an institution, furthermore, which is based in Parma.
In many countries, implementing legislation was immediately enacted, and there are now various National Authorities carrying out their work to harmonize national laws with EU directives. They supervise, inform the public and take action to ensure that some disastrous EU decisions made in favor of agribusiness lobby groups do not undermine their age-old agricultural systems. And this should also happen in Italy—all the more so given that we have chosen the path of quality, a focus on distinctive local produce and are the largest European producer of organic food.
In some European countries the EFSA has rapped governments over the knuckles if they take decisions that conflict with its directives and cannot refer to a National Authority of their own. This recently happened to Hungary, which officially opposed the cultivation of GMOs, while the European Authority had given its green light. This shows how useful a national institution can be as it is able to intervene with the EFSA—which is, as is becoming increasingly apparent, strongly influenced by industrial and multinational lobby groups.
But this is not all: an independent National Authority should express scientific opinions, undertake impartial research, coordinate the relevant bodies, inform and promote the land, protect the public from misleading publicity and agricultural practices contrary to the needs of our excellent producers.
The health of our public and our precious environment demand it. It is becoming scandalous that Italy does not have a National Food Authority and we will certainly remind the next government, in the hope that our politicians can realize how much harm we can do to ourselves.
First printed in La Stampa on February 25 2007
Adapted by Ronnie Richards