Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Italy looking to implement COOL on durum imports: AWC/Cereals Canada response

As wheat growers in Alberta are sowing the seeds of the next safe high quality durum crop to help feed the world, Italy is sowing the seeds of protectionism and trade barriers. Italy has asked the European Commission to allow it to implement country of origin labeling (COOL) on pasta sold within Italy. The regulation would require pasta to carry a label that identifies the origin of the durum used to make it and where the processing occurred. The declaration would require pasta labels to include “country of cultivation” and “country of milling.”

According to the declaration, depending on where cultivation and milling occurred, labels can include the wording “EU,” “non-EU,” or “EU and/or nonEU.” The European Commission has 90 days from May 12th to review the draft decree and if the European Commission does not express concerns with the decree, Italy will be clear to implement the regulation which would come into force 180 days after review by the E.U.

The regulatory measures will introduce significant segregation costs into the Italian milling and pasta industries which will drive up the costs of importing or utilizing Canadian durum. The Italian market is a very important market for Canadian durum growers, accepting an average of 21% of Canadian durum exports over the past 5 years.

COOL is a thinly disguised trade barrier intended to increase importers’ costs and give a marketplace advantage to durum and pasta products produced in Italy and the European Union. This is prejudicial against Canadian durum. COOL will foster the inaccurate perception that imports may be lower quality or less safe than Italian durum.  

Mandatory COOL labeling is being pushed by the Italian farm organization, Coldiretti which has a membership of more than 1 million farmers. Italian processors are strongly opposed to mandatory COOL and believe the result will be that consumers will end up paying more for lower quality pasta. 

The push for COOL is tied to activist pressure against glyphosate.  Canadian exports are well within the science-based maximum residue limits.  Heath regulators around the world, including Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority, have tested and re-tested glyphosate not found risks to human health.  Glyphosate is registered for use in 160 countries and no major heath regulator considers glyphosate to be a health risk.

Despite this we cannot ignore the impact of the activism against the world’s most common pesticide.  As the Italian COOL case demonstrates, activists can threaten our exports even though they have no basis in science.  Farmers can do their part to counter these threats.  The primary way is to rigorously follow the label for pesticide use. For example, the label for glyphosate indicates that fall application should not take place if the seeds are more than 30 percent moisture.  Adhering to this direction will limit residues and will limit threats aboard.  The keep it Clean – Cereals program has been launched to help inform producers about the best management practices to limit risks of exports being blocked – visit www.keepingitclean.ca for more information.

For durum growers in Alberta and Western Canada, Cereals Canada is working with the Government of Canada to address this protectionist measure. Cam Dahl President of Cereals Canada says “We cannot let this blatant protectionist measure go unchallenged.”  In addition to working with several offices of the Canadian government, Cereals Canada is also working with the U.S. industry to develop a common North American approach. Cereals Canada has written a joint letter with U.S. Wheat Associates to the Italian government.  Cereals Canada is looking to Ottawa to give notice that Canada is prepared to raise the matter with the European Commission and give notice that we are preparing to launch a WTO challenge.

Together with the Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Canadian Minister of International Trade, Cereals Canada will be meeting with Italian industry to develop a common approach to combating the proposed regulation.  Cereals Canada will also be meeting, together with trade officials at our Embassy in Brussels, with representatives of the European Commission before they comment on the Italian declaration.  The Canadian durum industry has had strong support from the Government of Canada on this issue.

Alberta Wheat Commission fully supports Cereals Canada‘s work in protecting the Italian market for Alberta durum growers and the value demonstrated in being a member of this national organization. Information on Cereals Canada can be found at cerealscanada.ca. 

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