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Young Italian Farmers Protest European Regulations


Michèle Shah
Posted: July 24, 1999

About 200 young farmers from across Italy packed into Siena's medieval palace on July 14 to protest directives from the European Community that they believe could wipe out artisanal farm products, from handmade wines to limited-production organic cheeses.

The meeting was organized by the National Association of Young Agriculturists (ANGA, in its Italian acronym), a recognized force in Italian agriculture as well as in the European Community's offices in Brussels. The organization -- which assists its members through training, research and political action -- has been successful in promoting Italy's wide variety of small vineyards, which dot the country from Piedmont to Sicily.

According to ANGA, Italian wines (as well as other agricultural products) risk losing their local identity and becoming increasingly standardized due to the effects of industrial-scale producers, the European Union's health and trade rules and the stipulations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization.

For example, under GATT, the point of final processing determines the identity of a product, such as olive oil or wine. Thus, if olives from Tunisia or grape must from Algeria were processed in Puglia, the olive oil or wine could be classified as Italian. ANGA's members believe that the whole chain of production and local processing should determine the identity and final naming of a product.

"We are not here just to preserve the old," said Andrea Pannocchieschi d'Elci, president of ANGA's Tuscan chapter. "Our motivation is to use our cultural heritage in order to produce the finest-quality products, be they cheeses, salami, hams, olive oil and, of course, wine." Many of the group's members have invested their energy and resources in small holdings, such as vineyards, to produce goods with their own character and identity, he added.

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