The organic farming law.
On 20 May 2021, the Senate passed, almost unanimously, a law regulating and enhancing organic agriculture for the first time. The Gadda, Cenni, Parentela and Golinelli unified text, approved by the House Assembly on 11 December 2018, containing provisions for the development and competitiveness of agricultural, agri-food and aquaculture production using organic methods, was approved with amendments and must therefore return to the House for further consideration and final approval. What organic farming represents for Italy, the cost of increased productivity and the industrialised agri-food system.
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Organic farming in Italy.
The approval of the new Italian law on organic farming comes at the most opportune moment and is in line with the European Green Deal and the strategies Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030, which intend to give a great impulse to the development of organic farming; these initiatives of the European Commission foresee that by 2030 at least 25% of the agricultural areas of the European Union should be cultivated with organic farming methods. In Italy, organic farming is the leading element of the agri-food system and the area of land cultivated organically accounts for about 16% of the total area, against a European average of about 8%. To get an idea of the size of the phenomenon, suffice it to say that in Italy around two million hectares are cultivated in organic farming and there are more than 80,000 organic farms; in 2020 the Italian organic market will reach seven billion euros, of which more than four will be in the domestic market. For our country, organic farming represents a strategic opportunity to contribute to the ecological transition and to the enhancement of the rural territory; Italy has seventy-five percent of its territory in hilly and mountainous areas, and for these organic farming is perfect, as stated in European Commission reports. Organic farming could allow marginal or abandoned land to be recultivated, a phenomenon caused both by the limitations of the industrial agricultural model and by the "set aside", policy introduced by the European Union in 1988, which encouraged the set-aside of agricultural land for long periods of up to twenty years, while at the same time preventing hydrogeological instability by maintaining human presence and activity in the hills and mountains.
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The race to increase productivity.
Continuing to pursue the goal of increasing agricultural yields by using greater quantities of fertilisers, pesticides and water without adversely affecting the ecosystem, its biodiversity and the climate would be illusory even if, in the short term, it has been a valid remedy for meeting demands because it has lowered costs, increased quantities and given farming greater certainty; after decades of indiscriminate application of an intensive and industrial model, we're unfortunately faced with an impoverishment of flora and fauna, degraded soils, polluted groundwater and air. In a society where the food system pollutes, wastes and sickens, it should be very clear that the prerogative is no longer to increase production by reducing costs, but to produce better and with respect for the Earth through regenerative and non-depleting practices.
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The industrialised agri-food system.
The industrialised agrifood system is the cause of an enormous amount of food waste, quantified at around 30% of what is produced. A recent FAO study, World food and agriculture 2020, showed that if one expressed the amount of world food waste in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 equivalents, it would represent the third "country" in terms of global emissions after China and the United States. There is a growing demand for agricultural production in the world, dictated by three basic needs, population growth, increasing consumption of meat and dairy products, and increased consumption of biofuels; it has been estimated that to meet these needs, world production would have to increase from the current level, and by 2050, by between sixty and one hundred percent. Talking, under the most unfavourable conditions, about the need to double production to cope with an expected population increase of between nine and ten billion people, in a context in which more than thirty per cent of the food produced is wasted, as well as being ethically unacceptable, has a very high cost in terms of direct and indirect environmental impact. A study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT- Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, showed that if we redirected diets and production systems in a sustainable direction, there would already be enough food to feed more than ten billion people and therefore there would be no need to increase production.
Man is at the top of the food chain and absorbs every day the small traces of pesticides, herbicides, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics that are present everywhere in what he eats, in fruit, legumes, vegetables, water, milk and animal meat; not to forget the microplastics and mercury in fish, additives and preservatives in industrial food and the polluted air he breathes in the city: these traces of pollutants accumulate for decades and combine in his body. It's therefore necessary to produce better, more efficiently and with less impact on the environment, to reduce the distance between places of production and consumption, to adopt healthier diets and, above all, to promote the redistribution of food so that everyone always has enough food of good quality.