PDO and PGI. The new EU rules by Coldiretti and the Grana Padano case

Grana Padano DOP_quote forma

On 28 February 2024, the European Parliament approved by a very large majority – 520 votes in favour, 19 against and 64 abstentions (1) – the new EU regulation on Geographical Indications such as PDO, PGI, TSG, as well as DOC and DOCG for wines. (2)

The regulation, almost identical to the text already examined, will come into force in April 2025. (3) To dispense more powers and public resources to intermediate bodies and industrial oligarchies, thus to the Coldiretti empire, awaiting the revolution of farmers, breeders and shepherds in protest.

The case of Grana Padano DOP – where the Consortium ‘issues’ and sells production quotas destined for industrial giants who then regulate the market to their exclusive advantage, to the detriment of farmers – thus risks setting a precedent. #CleanSpades.

1) PDO, PGI, TSG, DOC, DOCG. The economic data

The ‘mainstream media’ narrative presents Geographical Indications (GIs) as a strategic and important market segment in the European agri-food sector. Press releases report a sales value of € 80 billion for the 3.500 products with registered EU designations and geographical indications.

The overall value of EU agricultural production, on closer inspection, has also reached €534,4 billion (287,9 ​​plant production, 206,0 animal production, 39,5 fish production), in 2022 (Eurostat). While sales of processing companies reached €1.112 billion in 2023 (Food Drink Europe).

DOP, IGP, TSG, DOC, DOCG are therefore worth less than 5% of the total sales of agricultural and food products, at best. Italy, however, is in first place, with 892 GIs which, according to Ettore Prandini, president of Coldiretti, would develop over 20 billion in sales. (4)

2) Protection consortia and producer associations

The new regulation on Geographical Indications (GIs) has been celebrated by the ‘mainstream media’ as an epoch-making reform, with the (empty) promises of greater protection for registered trademarks and more streamlined procedures for registering new PDOs and PGIs.

Protection consortia – according to Paolo de Castro, rapporteur of the proposal in the European Parliament – get ‘more and better responsibilities, including combating devaluing practices and promoting geographical indication tourism’. (5)

Producer groups – especially ‘recognised’ ones, expressing at least 50 per cent of the producers (without distinguishing between agricultural and processing sectors) as well as at least 50 per cent of the production volumes – as well as their associations become new centres of power. (6)

3) Production quotas

Producer organizations and their associations, as well as recognized inter-professional organizations and producer groups – on the basis of the ‘single CMO’ – may decide by qualified majority (2/3 of producers and production volumes) to ask Member States, ‘for a limited period of time, binding rules for regulating the supply of agricultural products benefiting from a protected designation of origin or a protected geographical indication‘. (7)

Production quotas constitute an obstacle to free enterprise and free competition, capable of causing serious harm to farmers and stockbreeders who are de facto excluded from the decision-making process, as seen in the case of ‘forma quotas’. (8) The Single CMO had therefore foreseen these measures as exceptional, binding for a maximum of three years (unless renewed following a new request).

The new rules on the other hand, expressly provide that the period of validity of production quotas can‘be up to six years, but may be renewed after that period following a new request’. (9) With the evident aim of legitimizing the practice of consortia such as that of Grana Padano DOP which for years has restricted production quotas to the exclusive advantage of the giants who thus alter the market at their discretion, without paying attention to the interests of the farmers.

4) Production quotas, the case of Grana Padano DOP

The Grana Padano DOP Consortium led by Coldiretti – as this writer vainly denounced to the European Commission, DG Comp and DG Agri, on 13 August 2022 (see Appendix) – continues to regulate the supply on the global market through ‘shape quotas’ of the world’s best-selling PDO cheese. Although the product’s sales potential is virtually unlimited compared to current production capacities and its price is certainly remunerative, given that production costs are much lower but quotations are almost in line with those of the more valuable Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (10,11).

The market of Grana Padano production quotas is similar to a stock market, where industrial giants purchase ‘formal quotas’ from small and large dairies to concentrate them in the hands of a few giants, in very limited areas compared to the production area which extends from Piedmont to Trentino. To the point that, out of approximately 5 million ‘form shares’ distributed among the 117 dairies belonging to the Consortium:

– approximately 71% of the ‘form shares’ are concentrated in just the three provinces of Brescia, Mantua and Cremona

– 84% of the shares owned by the directors of the Consortium (who hold just under half of the total shares) are located in the three provinces called

– 34% of the ‘form shares’ are concentrated in the top five giants Latteria Soresina SCA, Latteria Sociale di Mantova SCA, Zanetti SpA, PLAC (Associated Milk Producers Cremona) SCA, Lattegra SpA

– 20% of the production quotas are in the hands of the first two giant agricultural cooperatives mentioned above.

5) Grana Padano, a Consortium or a trust?

Production control – through the ‘form quotas’ for Grana Padano DOP, and the ‘milk quotas’ for Parmigiano Reggiano DOP (5) – has in fact been transformed into a real financial instrument, which also lacks the rules that apply to Business Square. As:

– quotas (in addition to being traded, sold and rented) are periodically ‘issued’ by the

– Consortium ‘for the protection’ of Grana Padano DOP, like a joint-stock company or a foreign trust, which in this way

– fattens the emoluments of his Coldiretti managers, creates new positions and prepares the sumptuous headquarters of his foundation at the Chiaravalle Abbey. (11)

6) Industrial oligarchy and cooperatives against farmers and breeders

The breeders who supply milk to the dairies of the Grana Padano DOP Consortium – as well as those who hold ‘milk quotas’ in the Parmigiano DOP Consortium – are forced to sell off at #belowcost the national ‘spot’ raw milk, a perishable product, as it is in excess of the levels of production that are planned by industrial giants.

The industrial giants that decide on production quotas, it is pointed out, often market both PDO cheeses on international markets. In addition to producing ‘white cheeses’, i.e. similar cheeses that compete with PDOs, as the vice-president of the national Coldiretti and president of the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO Consortium, Nicola Bertinelli, has done for years. (13)

The European Commission to which the writer has exposed these aberrations has stated that the system is ‘democratic’ because it is ‘decided’ by 2/3 of the members representing 2/3 of the production volumes. Obstinately ignoring the fact – pointed out by the writer – that decisions are taken by the presidents of the cooperatives and not by the conferring farmers. What ‘democracy’?

7) Provisional conclusions

The power system built by Coldiretti with the support of all the Italian MEPs at its service – with the sole abstentions of Nicola Pecicini (#TerraPaceDignità) and a few others (1) – uses the Geographical Indications (GIs) for the exclusive benefit of the seats and the millionaire assignments of the his acolytes, (14) as well as the agro-industrial oligarchies.

Farmers, breeders, shepherds and fishermen – almost all family and peasant farms (94,8% of farms in the EU) continue to suffer the oppression of this system of power clinging to a policy that is their enemy, which must therefore be countered with peaceful protest to the bitter end as well as in legal venues, precisely at EU level.

8) Perspectives

The reform under consideration – in addition to aggravating the market distortions described above, whose compatibility with the principles of free competition engraved in stone of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is doubtful – it is completely lacking in three aspects:

– the fair distribution of the value chain of PDO, PGI, TSG, DOC and DOCG in favor of the operators of the primary supply chain on whom the quality of the raw materials, and thus of the products themselves, depends

– the mandatory indication on the label of the origin or provenance of the primary (>50%) and significant (i.e. characterizing) ingredients used in PDO, PGI, TSG products (15)

– social (e.g. protection of workers’ rights) and environmental conditions for access to public funds for the promotion of the products themselves.

The #fairprice, the prohibition of sales below cost and the exemptions of cooperatives, POs and AOPs from the discipline of unfair commercial practices are part of this battle that I have been humbly leading for years and reaffirm in my programme for the European elections of 6-9 June 2024, with the Peace, Land and Dignity movement. (16)

#CleanSpades, #Égalité

Dario Dongo


Dario Dongo. Report on the Consortium for the protection of Grana Padano DOP. 13.8.233


(1) European Parliament. Minutes – Voting results 28.2.04 https://tinyurl.com/nhf2u67p

(2) Legislative resolution of the European Parliament of 28 February 2024 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on European Union geographical indications for wines, spirits and agricultural products and quality schemes for agricultural products, amending Regulations (EU) no. /2013, (EU) 2017/1001 and (EU) 2019/787 and repealing Regulation (EU) no. 1151/2012. Consolidated text https://tinyurl.com/yc4dbc4c

(3) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. EU Geographical Indications and quality schemes, new rules coming soon for PDO, PGI, TSGGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.6.23

(4) EU: Coldiretti, PDO and PGI reform good, worth 20 billion, Italy leader. 28.2.24 https://tinyurl.com/4tp4aj77

(5) PD EUMPs. Green light for the new Regulation on PGI products. 8.3.24 https://tinyurl.com/y2d9wxab

(6) See the text of the regulation in question (note 2), articles 32,33,34

(7) Reg. (EC) 1308/13, so-called ‘single CMO’, article 166-bis https://tinyurl.com/bde4escr

(8) Dario Dongo. Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano and production quotas. #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.2.22

(9) New regulation, article 84, amendment to article 116-bis of Reg. (EC) 1308/13

(10) Dario Dongo. Grana Padano and egg lysozyme, a necessary preservative? The Italic anomaly. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.7.21

(11) Dario Dongo. Grana Padano with lysozyme preservative, TAR confirmationGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.12.23

(12) Chiaravalle Abbey and Grana Padano https://tinyurl.com/t3wb4m4t

(13) Dario Dongo. Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and similar cheeses, the Report effectGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.1.23

(14) Qualivita Foundation. The Protection Consortia comment on the approval of the EU Regulation on PDO PGI. 28.2.24 https://www.qualivita.it/news/i-consorzi-di-tutela-commentano-lapprovazione-del-regolamento-ue-sulle-dop-igp/

(15) Dario Dongo. Origin of raw materials on the label, the unsolved problemGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.3.2024

(16) Dario Dongo. Peace, Earth and Dignity. Our movement in the 2024 European elections. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.3.24

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