By Manlio Masucci, Navdanya International – 24 September 2021
The establishment of an organic district throughout the agricultural territory of the Autonomous Province of Trento in order to protect health, the environment and biodiversity. This is the request of almost 14,000 citizens of the Trentino region who have decided to resort to the referendum process in order to reverse an extremely worrying trend: the province of Trento is among the top consumers of pesticides per hectare in Italy of UAA (Utilised Agricultural Area). The area has been on an upward trend in recent years, and is in last place for organically cultivated UAA.On September 26, voters in Trento are therefore urged to go to the polls not only to defend biodiversity and sustainability, but also to offer new prospects for economic development in the sector.
From the outset, the proponents of the referendum have emphasised the proactive nature of the initiative. It is not so much a question of banning specific agricultural practices, as much as of encouraging good practices. If the ‘Yes’ vote wins, the legislator will be obliged to set a target of 50% of the UAA to be farmed organically according to a timetable to be agreed, thus creating a participatory, open and voluntary process, including for producers. In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the Autonomous Province of Trento will have to enact the relevant law within three months of the ratification of the result.
Citizens’ growing concern for the environment is in fact accompanied by a high demand for organic products that is hardly being met. Recent surveys confirm that more than two out of three Trentino citizens buy organic. Despite this, in 2016, according to ISTAT, the UAA cultivated with organic products in Trentino was 5.4% of the total, the second lowest in Italy, where the average was 16.8%. “In our province,” explains Matteo Zini of the Ortazzo association and a member of the promotional committee, “most school canteens serve organic products (thanks also to Provincial Law no. 13 of November 3, 2009) but these are mainly sourced from other areas, including apples. Then there is the age-old problem of drift, i.e. the dispersion of plant protection products beyond their targets, which is particularly felt by residents in rural areas. The geographical conformation of the area makes the presence of intensive cultivation close to homes, nurseries and schools a recurring problem.
The promoter’s objective is certainly ambitious, but the path to achieve it seems entirely coherent and functional: promoting environmentally sustainable farming and breeding practices (agroecology, organic, biodynamic); encouraging short supply chains, encouraging the consumption of local organic products in public canteens, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and mountain huts; fostering environmentally friendly tourism.
The referendum initiative fills an obvious gap left by politicians who do not seem to want to accept citizens’ requests and engage positively with the associations of conventional farming local producers, thus leaving the status quo unchanged despite a clear direction from the European Union. A desirable ‘Yes’ vote would reinforce an ongoing trend in Italy that has seen, in recent years, the creation of around 40 biodistricts covering 5.4% of the national territory and 3.5% of the population.
All information about the vote can be found at www.bio.trentino.it