In Canada, in order to accelerate the maturation of the grain, glyphosate is used as a desiccant before harvest — a practice banned in Europe. Glyphosate is the main ingredient of the Roundup herbicide produced by Monsanto, which is potentially carcinogenic, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and which is currently at the center of an international dispute: the European Union will decide by the end of this year whether or not to ban it.
The concern is that traces of this herbicide might be present in foods made from the grain, including “made in Italy” pasta. In addition, because of the humidity of the climate, Canadian wheat is affected by mycotoxins from a contaminant pathogenic fungus, which, at high levels of concentration, can have negative effects at the gastrointestinal level.
The presence of these contaminants — glyphosate, mycotoxins and cadmium — was found (albeit within legal limits) in a test carried out on some samples of Italian pasta by the GranoSalus association.
Meanwhile, problem number two not only complicates matters in terms of food safety, but also introduces an issue of international politics.
With the entry into force of CETA (the trade agreement between the E.U. and Canada, which has not yet been ratified by the Italian Parliament), the major North American agribusiness companies will have new instruments available to attack the stringent European standards for the protection of food quality.
Clearly, as explained by the Italian Association for Organic Agriculture (AIAB), a future harmonization of Canadian and European standards could leave everything up for grabs. The critical issues to be addressed at the parliamentary level concern more than just durum wheat containing glyphosate: “The harmonization of standards to the lowest common denominator, as stipulated in the treaty, would accept a de facto lowering of production and food safety standards. In particular, growth hormones in meat would be allowed, as well as the use of antimicrobials in washing produce, a liberalization of GMOs, and even less transparent labeling requirements.”
The Canadian producers make no secret of their intentions. Cam Dahl, the president of Cereals Canada, has threatened retaliation (in the form of legal action at the WTO) if Italy were to impose mandatory origin labeling on pasta.
In effect, the legal conflict is already open, as the obligation to label the origin of the grain will, or should, take effect in Italy on Feb. 17.
But the relevant decree has been challenged by AIDEPI with an appeal lodged at the Administrative Tribunal of Lazio, justified by nothing more than rhetorical smoke and mirrors.