Food quality and labelling are likely to be key issues when the Common Agriculture Policy is overhauled in the coming years. On 25 March MEPs called for 'country of origin' marks and clearer food quality labels. Italian MEP, Giancarlo Scottà (Europe of Freedom and Democracy), talks in an interview about his report on the European Commission's proposals.
Q: There are several controversial aspects to your report. Can we start with the 'country of origin' mark.
I come from a region (Veneto in Italy) where excellence in quality food has become a motor for tourism and gastro-tourism. There is a local economy around food and we are sure that there are similar areas to be promoted in the rest of Europe.
The mark of origin allows you to connect a certain food with the land where it is produced. In this way you give the consumer the possibility to choose: I'm not saying that European food is better than others. I think it should be up to the consumer to decide. I go further. I would like the Commission to survey consumers, to ask what they would really like to see on the label. We should stop arguing amongst ourselves and consult the people.
Q: Another proposal approved by MEPs despite strong resistance is the European food quality logo.
Every time you try to apply changes to something that works, you face a lot of resistance. This doesn't mean you cannot change. We proposed a European logo for products that are grown and entirely transformed in Europe.
The problem is supermarkets. They import food from all over the world, and then label it according to the last stage of transformation. This is not transparent for the consumer and makes traceability very difficult. In the report there is also a strong call for a 'short distribution chain'.
Q: What about the fight against 'agro-piracy' where products are fake or sold under false names. What can the EU do?
Even here in Brussels I have eaten fake Parmigiano I recognised immediately it was not the real thing!
You should know that the 'supermarket of fakes' is a business of over €52 billion a year. This is dirty money, which steals others' creativity and work.
We should be very tough with sanctions and punishments, both outside and inside the EU. We ask the Commission to fight at the WTO in order to obtain the same protection for the most counterfeited foods that we have for wines.
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