In response to competition from major corporations that threaten the centuries-old traditions of Italy’s olive production, and a market that favors the lowest price over available quality, Slow Food International — the global movement dedicated to the preservation of culinary traditions and sustainable production — has established a regulatory council to protect the quality production of the country’s extra-virgin olive oil.
The national presidium will unite olive oil producers and establish rules of conduct that maintain environmental and quality standards.
Currently, the council includes 26 Italian producers who adhere to national regulations, including cultivation without the use of synthetic fertilizers, the use of good agronomic practices to avoid erosion and landslides, and the protection of Italy’s oldest olive plants. In order to join the presidium, 80 percent of the plants involved must be a minimum of 100 years old. All harvesting must be done by hand in order to protect the integrity of the olives and the olive tree.
Producers must also use a “narrative label to sufficiently recount and promote their stories, territory and work.”
At the moment, the small-scale industry is threatened considerably by the industrialization of olive cultivation, which has taken the focus away from quality entirely. Furthermore, climatic events and pests that ravaged a recent harvest have put the industry in danger.
“Olive oil is fundamental to our health and, like other products that form part of our daily diet, has an important economic, social and cultural impact,” the organization said in a statement. “Slow Food has therefore decided to take action in support of small producers who work under the banner of sustainability, excellence and protection of territory, despite the environmental, bureaucratic and commercial difficulties they must face.”