#OliveTaggiascaDOP, open letter to minister Centinaio

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Taggiasca olive, olive-of-Taggia and surroundings, Imperia and Savona provinces, Liguria, Italy. So prized that it is being evoked more and more, everywhere, even in recipes. So much so that some people pass off the leccina olive as Taggiasca, and others start growing it in other areas and countries.

It is imperative and urgent to register a PDO, which was requested a dozen years ago but has been thwarted by bad politics and bad administration. We now therefore turn to Minister Gian Marco Centinaio.

Taggiasca PDO, 11 years of battles. Stench of burning

The ‘Taggiasca Olive PDO’ Promoter Committee has been fighting for more than 11 years to obtain PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) recognition. Otherwise, even in Spain, Tunisia and other countries it will be possible to grow olives of the ‘taggiasca’ variety and market them as if they were the real thing. Increased supply will lead to a drop in price, and genuine local production will disappear, certainly not being able to face price battles with new plantings on extensive mechanized-harvesting crops.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Tourism (MiPAAFT) is unfortunately responsible for the delays and uncertainties still hanging over the ‘Taggiasca Olive PDO’ project. In fact, the agricultural department is responsible for verifying the existence of the requirements of tradition linked to the territory and promoting the registration of the PDO with the European Commission. In this case, however, the bureaucrats in Rome – in addition to disregarding their duties – went so far as to violate the European regulation itself in order to obstruct the procedure. (1) They thus denied registration, by letter 3.11.08 which was challenged by appeal to the Regional Administrative Court.

The ministerial executive had the gall to assert that the PDO cannot be registered because there is a plant variety of the same name. False. It should be made clear immediately that the variety in question is precisely that which can be traced back to the Ligurian Taggiasca olive population, and not to pears or zucchini. Just therefore:

no conflict can occur between the designation of origin to be protected and the variety in question,

no error can be induced in the consumer about the origin of a product that relates exactly to the geographical area of its origin.

The battle continues and there is no shortage of suspicion. The obstacle placed in the way, as noted above, represents an unacceptable distortion of rules that have been in place for decades. It is shameful, moreover, that the unlawful denial affected a region, Liguria, which still boasts only two registered PDOs. (2) But it is precisely the value of Taggiasca olives in brine – €3.50/kg, compared to €1.50 for domestic and €1 for foreign olives – that suggests the existence of counterinterested parties. Like nurserymen, who already supply millions of seedlings to the top oil-producing countries, Spain foremost, and with the Taggiasca variety can make a fortune. Among other things, the nurserymen are concentrated in a region, Tuscany, from which several politicians who have been in government in recent years and are still in opposition come. Curious coincidences.

Taggiasca olive PDO, the way forward

If the war is to go on, the sponsoring committee will not back down. And we will always stand by them, even to the point of making the stench of illegality and abuse of office hovering over this dossier unbearable even to the European Commission and the EU Court of Justice. Ligurians are like olive trees, they flex but they endure, always. With the bad politics and bad administration of past governments, moreover, they have a score to settle of quite a different magnitude, 14.8.18.

Minister Gian Marco Centinaio will be able to do the right thing in the fastest time, before global counterfeiters permanently undermine the Taggiasca olive from the Flower Riviera. The way forward is very simple, just cancel the 3.11.08 letter through which the dutiful registration of the requested PDO was denied in self-defense. This act will bring the matter of administrative litigation to an end and should be immediately accompanied by the green light for the practice that has now been awaited for 11 years. Only one year has passed under this government, and it is time to demonstrate change.

Trusting in the quick response to this heartfelt appeal, we point out as a subordinate hypothesis the possibility of replacing the name of the plant variety with another name, of the various ones used for taggiasca olive trees. (3) As a result of this change, however, the Promoter Committee would have to file a new petition and thus lose valuable time in view of the urgent settlement of the case. (4)

#OlivaTaggiascaDOP, full steam ahead!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) ‘A name may not be registered as a designation of origin or geographical indication if it conflicts with the name of a plant variety or animal breed and is likely tomislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.’ (Cf. reg. EU 1151/12, Article 6.2. Provision identical to that already established by the former reg. EC 510/06, Art. 3.2, cited by the Ministry of Agriculture in its letter of denial

(2) Ligurian Riviera extra virgin olive oil and Genoese basil, the star of pesto alla genovese

(3) Taggiasca was a varietal synonym for an olive variety defined on the national register of plant varieties as Giuggiolina, Gentile, Pignola d’Oneglia. Until the Region of Liguria applied for its registration as a specific plant variety in autumn 2016. In fact, the meaning of the PDO is to guarantee the continuity and protection of productions that are characterized by a series of elements – pedological, climatic and human – typical of the reference territory


(4) This path was followed with Prosecco, which was already the name of a


cultivar


later changed to ‘glera,’ in preparation for the successful PDO registration in 2009

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.