Lentils Made in Canada invade Italy


The labels are silent. Thus, under the unknowing eyes of consumers, supermarkets are being flooded with lentils Made in Canada, dried with glyphosate and other agrotoxics. And overseas imports threaten the survival of crops in Italy. From the Consorzio della lenticchia di Altamura IGP in Puglia – Italy’s leading region in production (15.9 thousand tons, 13 million euros) – the cry of alarm.

Legumes, 1 in 3 parcels come from far away

Italian legume imports from Canada recorded double-digit growth in 2017, up 16 percent. 29.2 thousand tons, up from 22 thousand tons in 2016.

Istat data-though still being finalized-show that one out of every three packages of lentils, chickpeas and peas is from abroad. But the consumer doesn’t hear about it.

Much less is it explained to the consumer that legumes imported from cold countries are routinely treated with agrotoxics of various kinds-desiccants and pesticides-even within days of harvest.

Between Canada and Italy, CETA and Glyphosate

While in Italy the spraying of glyphosate is prohibited in the agricultural stages prior to harvest, in Canada the agrotoxic is sprayed on plants up to 4 days before threshing, with a desiccant function. (1) But the deficiency time-that is, the time required to minimize the presence of chemistry on the crop-is much longer, around 30 days.

Italy must lead the way
in food safety policies and make sure that the precautionary measures introduced at the national level also cover the entry into Italy of foreign products treated in similar ways, such as wheat, lentils, peas and chickpeas from Canada where intensive use of glyphosate is made right at the pre-harvest stage‘. This is what Gianni Cantele, president of Coldiretti Puglia, rightly says.

Too bad the Renziloni governments-always applauded by national Coldiretti-have instead instigated the ratification of CETA. Without placing conditions to protect food safety and our supply chains.

Legumes and agrotoxics, not just Canada

The massive use of chemical desiccants is the practice in all those areas of the planet where the harsh climate does not allow drying of legumes in the sun and open air. In Northeast China-from which Italy imported more than 2.4 thousand tons of legumes in 2017-as in Kazakhstan. Lentils, peas and chickpeas‘that once they arrive in the Bel Paese become made in Italy,’ denounces Angelo Corsetti, director of Coldiretti Puglia.‘Every day low-quality or even toxic food from other countries risks ending up on our plates, as shown by repeated alarms and seizures.’

The #stopcibofalse petition therefore aims to get Brussels to dutifully re-consider the need to expand labeling requirements on the origin of products and their raw materials. As the European Parliament has in turn urged. But the Juncker Commission seems subservient to the sole claims of Big Food, as most recently demonstrated in the primary ingredient origin regulation.

To our readers – consumAtors par excellence – the simplest invitation and advice. If the origin of the legume is not indicated on the label, leave it on the shelf. Our choice to buy only lentils, chickpeas and peas of known origin, Italian always best, is the only chance to force distributors to indicate origin.


(1) Other molecules used for desiccant purposes, besides glyphosate, are diquat, saflufenacil, glufosinate, flumioxazin, carfentrazone, benzovindiflupyr, and chlorpyrifos

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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