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Statements Special Procedures

Statement by Ms. Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, on her visit to Italy, 20-31 January 2020

31 January 2020

Italian version

Rome, 31 January 2020

Members of the Press, ladies and gentlemen,

I am addressing you today at the conclusion of my 11-day official country visit to Italy, which I carried out at the invitation of the Government of Italy from 20 to 31 January 2020. It has been a special mission as it was my first official country visit to a developed country and the last country visit of my mandate.

The main objective of my visit was to assess the enjoyment of the right to adequate food in a developed country, with its good practices and challenges, and to engage in a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders. I also aimed at providing useful and practical recommendations to the Government, civil society and other relevant parties. The following statement outlines my preliminary findings based on the information and interviews gathered during the visit, as well as background research conducted prior to the visit. My final report will be presented during the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in March 2020, in Geneva.

Let me start by thanking the Government of Italy for their openness and support in facilitating my visit and engaging with me in an open and constructive manner. I am most grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its instrumental support both before and during the visit in smoothly coordinating the preparation of the official programme and organising all the meetings requested.

During my time in Italy, I have travelled all around the country from the Centre to the North and the South of the country. In Rome, I held meetings with a range of Government representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Labour and Social Policies; Ministry of Economic Development; and Ministry of Environment. I also met with representatives of the Extraordinary Commission on Human Rights of the Senate, the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights of the Chamber of Deputies and the Commission on Agriculture of the Chamber of Deputies. In the capital, I also met with civil society organizations and academics.

I conducted field visits, outside the capital, to selected cities within the Italian regions of Lazio, Lombardy, Tuscany, Piedmont, Apulia and Sicily. In the past two weeks, I spoke at length with local authorities, representatives of civil society organisations, academics, migrant workers, traders, food producers, small-scale farmers and agricultural workers. I have also talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, migrants who are homeless and do not have a safe place to sleep, agricultural workers who work long hours in difficult conditions and with a low salary which does not allow them to cover their basic needs, undocumented migrant workers who are left in a limbo without access to regular jobs or the possibility to rent a house, and students who do not have access to the school canteens because their families cannot pay for it.
In Latina, I was confronted to the dire working and living conditions of migrant workers as well as the ongoing struggle to have their rights recognized. This is the reality that I also saw in Apulia a and Sicily and I understood that, throughout the country, agricultural workers face grim working conditions, in particular undocumented migrant workers, and pay the price of a sophisticated food system.

In Siena, I learned about school-feeding programmes and the right to food in school canteens throughout the country. I was part of a discussion to consider alternative solutions to guarantee access to food in school canteens for all students and I was encouraged by some good examples to promote the right to adequate and healthy food at primary and secondary schools.

In Milan, I participated in an open discussion about the Milan Food Policy actions towards a more inclusive food system, food education and social policies. I visited a soup kitchen managed by Caritas and learned about the role of key actors working on inclusion and poverty reduction involved in the implementation of the Milan Food Policy. I had the opportunity to learn more about food aid and food distribution in urban and peri-urban areas aimed to tackle food poverty assisting vulnerable families, as well as to speak with small food producers and small-holder farmers on their challenges to access food markets and promote sustainable local food system. I also visited a school and spoke with teachers and students on the challenges faced in accessing food and education at school.

In Turin, I learned about the efforts carried out by the Municipalities to implement the Gadda Law against food waste and interesting projects of distribution of food to vulnerable groups.

In Apulia and Sicily, I confronted realities of regular and irregular migrant workers engaged as agriculture workers who shared their difficult experiences, the role of the “Caporalato” (gangmastering) in the agricultural sector and the impact of the Mafia in food chains. I was encouraged by initiatives to fight these practices such as the use of confiscated land by cooperatives to produce organic farming, and efforts to support struggling farm workers moving them out of the ghettos and supporting them in the process of identifying legal work options and better living conditions.

I would like to especially express my deepest gratitude to everyone who took the time to meet with me and who shared their personal experiences. Their personal testimonies and contributions have been vital to the success of this visit and have helped me to understand some of the challenges that Italy faces.


With an estimated GDP of 2.84 trillion USD1, Italy’s is known worldwide for its innovative businesses, a large agriculture sector, and a modern manufacturing industry. Nevertheless, Italy has been hit hard by the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and has struggled to recover.

Italy’s economy has suffered a strong reduction in export and a considerable increase in imports2. Although the country’s GDP grew 0.1% in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter, Italy’s economy still struggles to fully recover and adjust to the new global and European economic environment. Political efforts to reinvigorate and revive the economy and foster economic growth have led to the production of a large public debt, which currently ranks second in Europe after Greece

The country is endowed with abundant natural resources and, due to the great longitudinal extension of the peninsula, the climate of Italy is highly diverse, fostering great variety in terms of landscapes, fauna and flora.

Italy’s population is estimated to be 62,246,674, with a high concentration around urban center and the slow and steady decline in population density in rural areas and inland cities, particularly in the southern part of the country where employment opportunity are more modest than in the northern part of the country. Currently just over 20 % of Italians live in rural areas.

Data from 2018 accounts for a total of 5 million people in extreme poverty, 8,4% of the total country’s population. As compared to 2017, there are no great variations in these numbers. As regards differences in poverty levels between the northern and southern part of the country, a highest percentage of families living in absolute poverty can be registered in the south (9,6%) and in the islands (10,8%) as compared to the north-west 95,3%) and north-east and center (5,3%). It is worth mentioning that minors in absolute poverty account for 12,6% of the total population and that the incidence of absolute poverty among foreigners is 30,3%.3

The landscape changes if rates of relative poverty are observed, since a completely different trend can be observed in this regard. In 2018, a total of 9 million people are living in relative poverty (15% of total population). However, as compared to 2017, an increase in the number of relative poor families can be registered in the north (from 5,9% to 6,6%) while a decrease is registered in the south (from 24,7% to 22,1%). At the individual level, however, the south still accounts for the majority of poor individuals overall.

In terms of GDP composition, the third sector, or services sector, is the major contributor to Italy’s GDP accounting for an estimated 75%. Surprisingly, the agriculture sector is the smaller contributor to the Italian GDP. The sector contribution, which accounted for around 4% of total GDP in the late 1970, accounted for 2,1% according to national 2018 statistics.


a. Italy’s Commitments to International Human Rights Mechanisms

The right to adequate food was first recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In particular, article 25 establishes food as a vital element for people’s health and well-being.4 Since then, the right to adequate food is reiterated in international declarations, treaties and agreements, such as in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Italy signed and ratified almost all international treaties in the area of human rights, including 2012 Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights in 2015, which is very few States so far signed and ratified. However, Italy still needs to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

As the active members of the Human Rights Council, Italy has an standing invitation to all Special Procedures, and has hosted several Special Rapporteurs (Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences). Italy has also been reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.

Over the years, Italy was monitored by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (detention conditions, trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation); Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (situation of migrant workers); Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (asylum seekers and refugees, obesity); Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (women migrant workers).

b. National Level

The Non-recognition of the Right to Adequate Food in the Italian Constitution

The Constitution of Italy does not explicitly recognize the right to adequate food. However, the right to adequate food has been protected through broader human rights principles, as well as through adherence to international treaties that Italy signed and ratified.5 Furthermore, Article 117/1 of the Constitution recognises that the international human rights treaties have primacy over national legislation.6 This implies that the right to food could be applicable even if the Constitution does not include a direct reference to it.

Beside the indirect link created by the mentioned articles, the Constitution provides for other pertinent provisions in order to realize the right to adequate food such as Article 32 on health, Article 36 on the right to work, and Article 38 on social protection. However, it is always recommended to have an explicit provision to the right to food to ensure that right holders can access justice in case of violation of their right.

Although there is no framework law at national level, Italy has several sectoral laws relevant to agriculture, rural development, food safety, mostly harmonization of EU legislation into national level.

c. The Recognition of the Right to Food at the Regional and Local Levels in Italy

In Italy, the legislative power is co-exercised by the State and the regions and exercised based on the subject matter. The area of ‘alimentazione’ (food or diet) belongs to the concurrent competence of States and Regions (art. 117). According to the Constitutional distribution of legislative and administrative powers, the implementation of the right to food in Italy is closely linked to the actions of all levels of authority, from the State to the city councils. These multiple levels of implementation could have a positive impact to bring flexibility to regions and local authorities that would like to go beyond the national policies and principles. The downside of this system is losing necessary united policies and unified principles, given the diverse economic and food systems developments in diverse regions.
The Human Rights Council of the United Nations highlighted that the principle of shared responsibility requires a strong coordination. Further, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights noted in its General Comment N° 4 that State parties should take steps “to ensure coordination between ministries and regional and local authorities in order to reconcile related with the obligations under article 11 of the Covenant”.8 One example to this, is the decision of the 2015 Lombardia Regional Council to issue a law that makes explicit reference to the right to food. The law embraced a systemic understanding of the right to food, both in terms of substance and democratic procedures of definition of policies and implementation.9
However, after few years, there is still a lack of coordination and integration of the different regional policies, such as the non-implementation of the Regional Food Council for the promotion of the Right to Food as a multi-stakeholder space for participatory dialogue.
The link between cities and food was particularly influenced by the Universal Exposition of 2015 (EXPO), held in Milan and inspired by the idea of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Food was at the centre of several months of cultural, social, political and legal conversations, and right to food was promoted as a philosophical foundation of the Expo, to avoid wholly commercial meaning of expos.
In 2015, the Lombardia Regional Council passed a law on the ‘Recognition, Protection and Promotion of the Right to Food’ and two other regions (Piemonte and Abruzzo) amended their Regional Charters to introduce a reference to the right to food. Moreover, several city councils began discussing the possibility of implementing urban and metropolitan food policies.10 Milan has also been one of the first cities in Italy to adopt a Food Policy, highlighting the importance of the implementation of the policies rather than their appearance.11
Despite the lower level of media attention and visibility aside from Northern Italy, there are also experiences that emerged from small and medium towns of South of Italy. Local authorities have taken initiatives in favour of redistribution of common land to locals and have supported local and alternative systems of food distribution.12
Besides right to food legislation in Lombardi region, the Tuscan Regional Law 50/97 for the protection of local varieties is of the few operational examples at European level for protecting and enhancing the genetic resources for food and agriculture.13 It can be considered a forerunner of regulations at national and European levels in line with the aims of the FAO Treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
In concluding, the fragmentation of the food systems in Italy is made visible by the presence of unequal access to adequate food at the national level for all, and the unequal distribution of farmers’ market and organic shops. Moreover, the lack of clear statistics concerning the regions represent a gap that should be filled. It is recommended that the Central Government should have the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, but regional and local authorities are equally bound to these obligations and duties.14
The experience with the regional laws highlights the importance of the local context in addressing the question of the sustainable use of genetic resources. In particular, combining territorial development with agricultural biodiversity appears to be an appropriate strategy for harmonising local incentives and global objectives in pursuit of the common good deriving from the sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture.


After the economic crisis in 2007/2008, Italy has struggled to recover and many families have gone from middle-income to low-income, in many cases unable to access sufficient quality food. Poverty rates have also been exacerbated by the migration influx, which has brought to the country a number of migrants escaping from war and famine in their country of origin. They, together with those Italian families unable to make ends meet, are the new poor in this country, and I have met a number of them across the entire peninsula.

a. Reddito di cittadinanza

Approved with the law n.4 of 28 January, and entered into force in January 201915, the minimum guaranteed income is a social welfare provision that ensures that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. Eligibility is typically determined by citizenship, as well as other criteria16. The measure, which is widely present in many other European countries, has resulted in a number of families accessing a temporary source of income. The system is designed for beneficiaries to start a pathway leading to the reestablishment of financial independence, including by accessing job opportunities. The income is limited in time and it is strongly connected with the acceptance of the beneficiaries of the work opportunities identified for them by the job centers.

Although the measure has many positive sides, one of the criteria for beneficiaries to access it is the ownership of physical assets, as such conditions greatly reduces ability to benefit of such social welfare tool. I was particularly touched by a woman, who could not contain her tears while telling me that the only way in which she could feed herself and her son was for them to be separated and for each of them to ask for food aid and lodging to different organizations, as there are currently very few options to receive support and also keep the family together. She could not access the minimum guaranteed income system, because her husband has a small house in the south of Italy which he inherited together with his brothers, who refuse to sell the house. With that house in my husband’s name, she is prevented from accessing a service that could allow her family to have some income and stay together.

b. Food aid programmes

In order to respond to the growing levels of urban and rural poverty in Italy, both among Italians as well as migrants, the Government as well as many NGOs and religious organizations are currently providing a number of services and delivering programmes all over the country that provide food aid. I was impressed by the number and variety of these programmes, which include soup kitchens, innovative food provision programmes and shelters. Having said, that I believe structural change is necessary to avoid multiplying food banks.

Throughout my visit, I have observed that the overwhelming majority of the food aid programmes, institutions and facilities featured goods provided by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)17 , which supports EU countries' actions to provide food and/or basic material assistance to the most deprived. It was clear that the FEAD fund has greatly facilitated the system of food aid in the country.

Across the country, I observed a variety of programmes. In the North, I visited an inventive initiative called Buon Mercato, which features a supermarket where poor families can do their food shopping by using point that are assigned to them by the organization leading the initiative based on the family composition. The organization’s system to deliver food aid is based on the principle of maintaining the dignity of family, who are still free to make decisions on their diet and able to maintain food preferences for their meals. Another interesting initiative is the Refettorio Ambrosiano18, established as a pop-up initiative during the Milan Expo 2015 to prevent the inevitable food waste that the expo would trigger. Situated in an abandoned theatre, the Refettorio is now a permanent food kitchen which feeds an average of 100 people per day and features meals prepared with donated produce form all over the city of Milan.

In the South, I observed the strenuous efforts of Biagio Conte19, a lay missionary who has established food aid for the city’s homeless as well as a shelter, missione Speranza e Carita’, which welcomes poor Italians as well as migrants who have exhausted their assistance options with the Italian government. The systems established by Biagio Conte includes a farm outside of Palermo, in Tagliavia, where beneficiaries receive trainings on farming skills and also farm the land, contributing to the production of food which is then distributed to the beneficiaries of the different shelters. Speranza e Carita’s center, in Palermo, has been built from the ground up by its team working side by side with beneficiaries, who are offered vocational trainings that will hopefully facilitate them in finding work opportunities outside. This includes skills on production of processed food like bread, as well as courses to become carpenters and blacksmiths.


Currently, about 40% of Italy’s territory (127 079 km2) is used for agriculture; According to FAO’s 2014 official data, the Agricultural Area is estimated at 13162 (1000 Ha).20 Italy also features a highly diverse agricultural sector with considerable regional variation in terms of farm structures and production.

Efforts are being made to increase and strengthen the transformation and value addition industry of agriculture produce. The Ministry of Economic Development mentioned to me that an estimated 140 billion euros of transformed agriculture products is created per year in the country.

Provisional estimates on the agricultural sector as a whole at territorial level indicated an increase in the volume of production in almost all areas of the country. In the Centre, there was an increase of 3.2%. In the North, there was an increase in production of 2.2% in the North-East and 1.6% in the North-West. In the South, the trend was the opposite, with a decrease of 2.4% and in the Islands, there was a drop of 1.7%.

Farmers in the agriculture sector are represented by several major organizations and trade unions for farmers, which serve as intermediaries between the farmers and the State. However, several meetings with farmers as well as agriculture researchers revealed that these same organizations often fail to properly represent the needs of the farmers and reflect the farmers’ voice into agriculture law and policy making. It appears that the system is well established, and these malpractices rooted, leaving little space for farmers to hope that a model for better representation can be articulated.

A number of unfair practices in the sale of agriculture produce has been highlighted by many of the witnesses I met during the visit. Of particular importance is the current practices related to the bulk purchase of processed agriculture produce by large retailers (bidding also from outside of Italy) who purchase Italian processed goods to be sold in Italy as well as many European markets, the so-called double race auctions21 which assign the produce being sold to the supermarket offering processors the lower price. In Italy’s agriculture and fresh produce sector, these kinds of bids take place prior to the picking season, forcing the processors to meet a price before going through the actual production phase. This does not allow to account for possible losses in produce due to climate change or adverse climate conditions, plant diseases or any other unforeseen event that can reduce the production. As a result, processors cannot offer producers a fair price for the raw materials. As a result, producers are forced to take shortcuts that either increase production (e.g aggressive use of pesticides) or cut production costs (eg. lowering salaries for farm workers offering far less that minimum agreed wage by law).

a. CAP and national policy

The 2014-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was Europe’s attempt to answer to the need for a decent standard of living for 22 million farmers and agricultural workers and a stable, varied and safe food supply for its 500 million citizens. The Policy planned to invest around 37.5 billion euros in Italy's farming sector and rural areas, prioritizing jobs and growth, sustainability, modernization, innovation and quality. The Policy foresees direct payments to member countries for specific areas, however Italy has flexibility to adapt both direct payments and rural development programmes to its specific needs.22
As the CAP rolled out, a number of issues have emerged that will need to be addressed moving forward and that have greatly affected Italy as well.
Particularly as regards direct payments, according to Italian local authorities, thousands of acres of farmland in the east of the Italian island of Sicily have been fraudulently acquired to qualify for EU agricultural subsidies. These lands have been acquired through illegal systems, including extortion, and have frequently been left unfarmed and purchased with the sole purpose of acquiring subsidies and funds for agriculture development, particularly European fund and CAP funds. On this practice, a vast investigation has been carried out in Sicily involving 600 police officers, which culminated in 94 arrests on 15 January 202023.

b. Initiatives to support agriculture

Meetings with different governmental authorities in charge of agriculture development, including but not limited to the Ministry of Agriculture, have highlighted that a number of initiatives are currently ongoing to facilitate and stimulate the growth of the agriculture sector as well as the transformation and value addition industry.
In particular, Government’s efforts in this direction include: provision of subsidies for engagement in agriculture of youth and women; awareness creation on the importance and value of organic agriculture as well as the Mediterranean diet; organisation of events to discuss prevention of soil degradation and desertification; and launch of large events to foster farmers’ participation.
Of course part of the subsidies offered to the agriculture sector also include mechanisms to facilitate the involvement of youth and women, and facilitate the creation of small and medium enterprises in agriculture. This was particularly true for farmers that I met, in the Northern part of the country, who explained their struggle to keep their land for small to medium farming businesses.

c. Nature of the Italian agriculture (small holders and big agriculture)

The current agriculture landscape in Italy presents an important dichotomy: on one hand, the Northern part of Italy is characterized by large land holding and intensive production systems, with an average of 80/100 hectares per farm; on the other hand, a large group of smallholder farmers still exists, particularly in the Southern part of the country, with an average farm side of 5 to 8 hectares, depending on the farming system and specialization (eg. vegetable/fruit type, presence of livestock, etc.).
I was particularly impressed by the testimony of farmers in the Northern part of Italy, who are currently struggling to maintain their land for farming and protect it from aggressive land buying of big farming businesses as well as massive construction projects for the expansion of the urban areas of Milan.

d. Workers in the food system

It has been broadly reported in the media that more than thousands of day-labourers live in Southern Italy area during its picking seasons. Farmers employ seasonal workers from Eastern Europe, Africa and Italy under illegal conditions. Unofficial surveys put that number as high as 90 percent in Foggia. Numerous reports indicate that migrant workers endure slavery-like conditions in the olive oil, tomato and grapes industries among others.24

Discussion with several NGOs and meetings with agriculture workers from different parts of the country have revealed that a number of people still actively engage in agricultural work, including women and migrants. Regardless of sex, age and nationality status, I learned that agriculture workers are exploited and underpaid. This is particularly severe when it comes to migrant workers hired during the harvest season around the country, especially if migrants are undocumented.

Although several laws and trade union contracts have been formulated to better regulate the employment of agriculture workers, I was told w by several of the workers I met that the minimum wage continues to be low (from 5 euro per hour to 50 euros per day for an average of a 6,5 hours work day, depending on the type of produce). Furthermore, occupation health and safety of agriculture workers seems to be severely overlooked for any category engaging in the sector. It was widely reported during my visit that the number of maximum hours of work per day defined by law are often not respected; minimum wage are frequently not paid, even if agreed before the harvest season starts – this is particularly true and severe for migrant workers, especially if undocumented and present in Italy without a valid permit, which leaves unprotected and unable to report any abuse; safe practices in the use of pesticides are not implemented and safety gear not offered to workers.

As regards specifically Italian women working in the agriculture sector, the latest agriculture census25 reported that more than 1 million women work as small holder farmers in Italy. Further studies reveal that Italian women farmers are unable to make ends meet, and are diversifying– not just their crops, but what it means to be a farmer in Italy, practicing what they call “multifunctional agriculture”, finding opportunities in agricultural tourism, farmers’ markets, organic farming and direct sales.

e. Pesticides

Italian statistics are presenting a mixed picture of pesticide residues in food. While environmental organisations are warning of damaging levels of multi-residue for the health of consumers and the environment, pesticide firms are drawing on official figures at both European and national levels to reassure citizens on food consumption.

The annual report of Italian environmental association Legambiente has shown that 0.6% of fruit and vegetable products marketed in Italy contain illegal levels of pesticide residues, equivalent to one for every 200 samples analysed. According to 2012 data, products which are contaminated by only one residue amount to 18.3%, while those having multi-residue are 17.1% and an increase in the number of different chemicals which are simultaneously present in a single sample is registered26. Nevertheless, in the latter case, very often the sample is declared to be regular, since the quantity of each residue respects law limits. In this regard, President of Legambiente, Vittorio Cogliati Dezza, stated that “a more careful reading of results shows a situation that is far from reassuring. There are numerous cases of products that are contaminated by 7, 8 and even 9 different active substances in a compound that no one has ever analysed and that could potentially be very damaging for the health of consumers and the environment.”

Data points out to the need to develop new laws that address the alarming situation particularly in terms of produce containing multi-residue. Counter-measures should be designed by the government to guarantee the safe consumption of agriculture produce by unaware consumers.

Meetings have been held with the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the subject of pesticides has been touched upon. It was highlighted that checks regularly take place by the competent authorities and that the Italian fruits and vegetable sector is subjected to rigorous and continuous inspections. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the levels of pesticides considered safe for consumption by the EFSA as well as Italian authorities takes into account the multi-residue issue, which seems to be a crucial element in the sample analysis carried out.

According to data released by statistics body Eurostat in 2016, Italy is one of the biggest consumers of pesticides in the European Union, together with Spain, France and Germany. The finding raises concerns about the impact pesticide use could have on EU residents’ health.27

In 2016 Italy’s Ministry of Health decided to place a number of restrictions on the use of Glyphosate, one of the world’s most ubiquitous pesticides. The Italian restrictions ban the use of Glyphosate in areas frequented by the public or by "vulnerable groups" including children and the elderly. The list of banned areas includes parks, gardens and courtyards, the edges of roads and railways, urban areas, sports fields and recreational areas, playgrounds and green areas within the school buildings, and areas adjacent to health facilities.

However, testimonies from agriculture workers involved in intensive green houses cultivation in the central and south art of Italy have provided information that greatly differs from the official statistics. Witnesses met during the visit have disclosed common practices which involve a considerable use of pesticides, including highly dangerous ones, in the production of a variety of produce, particularly fruit. Health hazards and unsafe practices in the application of the pesticides have been reported. Particularly worrisome is the testimony of a farm worker in the central part f Italy, who reported the use of counterfeit pesticides, complementing the testimony by showing the pesticide container. It was explained that raw chemicals are imported from China, brought to Italy with the intervention of organized crime from southern Italy, processed in Italy, packaged with counterfeit labels and sold in the market for use particularly in central and southern Italy, where a bulk of the country’s farming takes place.
Furthermore, a female farmer from the southern part of the country, reported that pesticides are abundantly used in green house production, and are applied offering little to no protection and warning of health risks to agriculture workers.


a. Migrants

Today, in Italy, there are more than 5 million foreign residents, who make up 8.3 per cent of the total resident population28. The number of non-EU citizens continues to increase, albeit slightly, from 3,714,934 in 2018 to 3,717,406 in 2019.29 Romanian citizens (1.2 million, 23% of the total) are the first migrant community, followed by citizens from Albania, Morocco, China, Ukraine and the Philippines. These five non-EU migrant communities represent, together, 31 per cent of the total foreign resident population, which has almost doubled since 2007.

The most important regular migration avenue to Italy is family reunification. In 2016, almost half (45%) of the 227,000 new permits issued, were for family reunification reasons; 34 per cent were for humanitarian reasons (asylum seekers, refugees, persons entitled to humanitarian or subsidiary protection), and only 5.7 per cent for work reasons. 30 In 2017, for the first time since the early 2000s, there was a decrease in the number of total residence permits issued to non-EU citizens.31In 2018, 242,009 new residence permits were issued, 7.9% less than the previous year.32

The migrant workforce is an essential component of the Italian labour market. Migrant workers irregularly residing in Italy, tend to concentrate in sectors in which labour law enforcement is difficult to implement (e.g. services, including private domestic and care services, hospitality, food and catering, tourism, etc., retail and trade and agriculture). The highest shares of irregular workers as part of the total number of migrant workers are found in agriculture (41% of total foreign workers is estimated to be irregularly employed), followed by retail and trade (27%), services (26%), and manufacturing (11%)..33

According to different sources, the adoption of the 2018 Decree on security and immigration, known as “Salvini Decree”, has led to an increase of the number of undocumented migrant workers, due to the elimination of humanitarian protection and exclusion to asylum seekers from the reception system. Salvini law seems to be accelerating the illegalization of asylum seekers and pushing people further into irregular work without any labour protection. There are now an estimated 680,000 undocumented migrants, twice as many as only five years ago. There has also been an increase in the number of rejected asylum requests (an estimated 80% in 2019 compared to 67% in 2018). 34 

The migrant workers that I met in Latina, Apulia and Sicily were most of them in irregular situations, extremely vulnerable to dangers such as labour exploitation and forced labour. Some of them were granted a stay permit for humanitarian reasons and had worked in Italy for several jobs; however, their permits had expired and, due to the elimination of humanitarian protection, they were living in very challenging situations, facing in some cases expelling orders. In other cases, irregular migrants were invisible for the State living in dire conditions without access to adequate house, food, water and sanitation and employment.

b. Agricultural workers

The incidence of migrant workers in the agricultural sector has tripled over the last ten years, passing from 5.3 per cent in 2007 to 16.6 per cent in 2017 of the total employment in agriculture. There are between 400,000-500,000 migrant workers in Italy’s agricultural sector, around half of its total workforce. 35 Agriculture is often the only sector in which low-skilled workers can find employment. They often accept exploitation that may amount to slavery-like conditions as they feel they have no choice.

In Apulia and Sicily, I learned how migrant labour is a flourishing business, not only for farmers but also for contractors who hire men and women to work illegally in the field. According to Italian labour unions, 300,000 illegal workers continue to generate billions of euros a year in profit for Italy’s agricultural sector.36

Agricultural workers told me that, outside harvest seasons, an African worker usually received 2-3euros per hour, compared to Italy’s agricultural minimum wage, agreed by the industry, of 7 euros. Some of them were paid by piecework, as their only pay, which is illegal in Italy. In my visit to a ghetto in Apulia, I witnessed the terrible working and living conditions for agricultural migrant workers where some lived in overcrowded accommodation with scarce access to water and without access to electricity, sanitation or basic needs. The ones arriving for the harvest season would have to live in tents or hand-made shacks. The number of irregular agricultural seasonal workers would double during the harvest season making conditions even more difficult. Some of them stated that without the support of organizations such as CARITAS they would not be able to survive.

Agricultural workers also face the problem of Caporalato or gangmaster system which is widely used around Italy. I was confronted to the fact that important irregularities persist, not only in the hiring system but also with regard to labour conditions, payment of wages, interaction with pesticides and chemicals and other basic elements. Many of the migrants are recruited by local gangs to work as seasonal agricultural workers, in the absence of any basic service, right and freedom.37 I will go into more detail on this problem in the Section on Caporalato below.

c. Small-scale farmers

Small- scale farmers represent the most widespread model of farming in Italy even if more and more small farms are been abandoned due to the challenges faced by farming. According to the 6th General Agricultural Census 2010, these types of farms represent 98.9% of total farms, thus cultivating 89.4% of the total utilized agricultural area.38 
These small farms play an important role in the urban and rural economy as they contribute to food safety, they provide many high-quality products, they improve the dynamism of the rural economy, and their interest in the care of the environment fosters the production of local goods.
In Milan and Turin, I heard a lot about “Zero km food concept” which refers to the food produced, sold and eaten locally that travels zero kilometres and does not go through global trade chains. I also witnessed the importance of promoting local products to ensure that consumers can access better quality food.
Even if initiatives are being developed to access local food, small-scale farmers face a complicated reality. They are confronted to an increase of intensive agriculture, the control of the agrifood market by major distribution chains, and the establishment of large buying centres, which increase the pressure on farmers imposing very low prices and therefore have no other choice than to hire low-cost labour. Italy’s landscape, especially in the South, is characterised by abandoned farm houses, once belonging to small-holder farmers who failed unable to compete with the pressure imposed by industrial agricultural.


a. Obesity

About 1 in 10 people is obese in Italy and more than 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are overweight. In addition, overweight rates are supposed to increase by a further 5% within ten years. However, the most worrying data is linked to children.
A total of 1 in 3 children is overweight, representing one of the highest rates in the OECD. 39 Childhood obesity rates are notoriously considered extremely high (36% for boys and 34% for girls), compared with 23% of boys and 21% of girls, on average, in OECD countries.40
Large socio-economic disparities exist in obesity: women with poor education in Italy are 3 times more likely to be overweight than more educated women. Poorly educated men are 1.3 times more likely to be overweight than more educated ones.41

b. Labelling junk food

Unhealthy food choice is one of the main causes of overweight in children and adults. Nutritionists blame a particular category of food: junk food.

The consumption of nutritionally poor junk food is part of the diet of 14,2% of Italians of less than 18 years, with higher consumption among teenagers (17,4% of people between 11 and 17 years of age declared to consume it). Geographically, the consumption of junk food is highest in the South (19,4% of daily consumption) but also particularly high in the North-West (16,3%) compared to the 8,9% of the Centre. Unhealthy eating habits have a clear repercussion on the impact of overweight, obesity and diseases. Since 2008, the Ministry of Health conducts a survey of the health condition of primary school children (8-9 years). 42

The Government of Italy has put in place some measures to decrease the consumption of junk food such as the “5 a day” target governmental promotion of fruit and vegetable consumption and the campaign “Guadagnare salute” (Gaining in health).43 Gaining in Health is a comprehensive multi-component intervention aiming to make healthy choices easy. The main objective of this intervention is to nudge people towards healthier behaviours which would decrease the likelihood of developing chronic diseases. The programme was launched in 2007, as a direct consequence of the National Plan on Prevention (approved in 2005) and the signing of the WHO plan to contrast obesity in the European Region, in 2006. The programme targets four key lifestyle behaviours: unhealthy diet, particularly for what concerns low consumption of fruit and vegetables, tobacco smoking, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol drinking.

Despite these initiatives, the Government of Italy still needs to put in place some concrete measures to reduce the consumption of junk food such as higher taxes on junk foods and sweet beverages as well as strict regulation over the marketing of such products, as previously stated by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.44

c. Breastfeeding

Surprisingly, there is insufficient data on exclusive breastfeeding among infants in Italy. Without data, it is impossible to assess Italy's progress for infant exclusive breastfeeding.
In my meeting with the Ministry of Health, I was told that Italy has National Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating (most recent version was published in 2019) which contain a section on the importance of breastfeeding and the support provided. The guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months as the optimal way of feeding infants, following the recommendation provided by WHO.45 Another initiative highlighted by the Government was the establishment of an interdisciplinary roundtable for the promotion of breastfeeding, established in 2012. This roundtable is aimed at promoting the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and the dissemination among the population of the awareness of the importance of breastfeeding as a natural norm, of cultural and social value, in accordance with national and international guidelines.46Considering the problem of child obesity in Italy, studies have indicated that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight, and are less prone to diabetes later in life. Therefore, breastfeeding should be considered as the sole and optimal option.

The Government of Italy has the obligation under relevant international human rights treaties to provide all necessary support and protection to mothers and their infants and young children to facilitate optimal feeding practices. In line of this obligation, Italy should adopt measures to foster women’s informed decision-making, including through access to objective and accurate information on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as protection from biased and misleading information through inappropriate marketing practices of manufacturers and distributors of baby food products. It is also extremely important that Italy provides reliable and updated data on breastfeeding to ensure the development of targeted policies and social protection programmes aimed to support breastfeeding.


In relation to the right to food, it is important to recognize the close and interrelated link that school canteens create between the right to education and the right to food and the impact on the fight against poverty. A 2018 report by Save the Children stresses that the improvement of the life conditions of Italian children will inevitably require the increase in the number of schools that offer full time options and free school meals for those who cannot afford it.

In Italy, over 1.2 million children live in absolute poverty, throughout the country, with those in the most difficult situations in the Southern regions. In 9 Italian regions, more than 50% of the pupils do not have the opportunity to use the school canteen service and the percentage of students who do not use the service vary from 30% to 80%. In relation to the fees to access the school canteens, the disparities among municipalities are a fact: the tariffs vary from 0.3 euros in Palermo to 6 euros in Rimini. I was told that reductions and exemptions applied to tariffs were only for residents, living the children of non-residents outside of the school canteens.
The Government of Italy should support low-income families whose children cannot participate in the school canteens due to their economic situations. In addition, the Government should adopt a national framework for the school feeding programmes to combat disparities among municipalities and ensure that all students have access to school canteens, despite their families’ economic situation.


a. Gadda Law and the Regulation of Food Loss and Waste

Italy was the second country in the European Union to pass a national law to regulate the loss and waste of more than 100kg of food per person per year from farm to fork.47 The Legge Gadda (166/2016)48 facilitates the collection and donation of food surplus by simplifying donations to non-profit entities, incentivizing innovation and requiring local administrations to provide fiscal incentives. In addition, it promotes reuse and recycling and has a dedicated fund for research, information and awareness-raising activities both of the consumers, private actors and the institutions. Public administrations, food actors and data highlight that the law has increased the amount of food available for redistribution.49

However, although an important and effective quick fix to food poverty, the Legge Gadda shall be seen as a temporary solution and the ‘redistribution mentality’ that is diffused along the country shall be abandoned in favour of a right to food approach to both food loss and waste.

b. Anti-Caporalato Law

Caporalato (i.e. gangmastering) is the illegal intermediation between workers and farmers based on the exploitation of the condition of vulnerability of workers, which leads to forms and conditions of employment alike to those of modern slavery (salaries below the national minimum, violations of the daily and weekly hour limits, lack of social security, unhealthy living conditions, moral and physical violence, forced to pay for water, transportation, food.).50

Caporalato appears to be widely diffused in Italy and is not a recent phenomenon. 51 From North to South, hundreds of thousands of workers (both men and women) farm the land or take care of livestock without the adequate legal and social protections, salary and under the constant threat of losing their job, being repatriated or being the object of physical and moral violence.52 Seasonal workers and non-seasonal workers often find in the Caporalato system the sole possibility to sell their labour and obtain a payment. With the law 199/2016 against labour exploitation, Italy has extended the scope of the existing provision against Caporalato: the main innovation is that the new article 601bis of the criminal code criminalizes both the intermediary (which was already object of a criminal provision) and anyone (often called ‘patron’ by the workers) who exploits workers and takes advantage of their state of need – whether or not there has been illicit intermediation. Most of public authorities, local actors and academics have described the law as a step forward.

However, the law appears insufficient to guarantee the human rights of all farmworkers, in particular of the more than 400,000 undocumented migrants who work in the Italian agricultural system and are kept in a condition of invisibility and fear because of the current system of migration law and the ‘law and order’ attitude towards migrant workers.

c. Fight against Agro-Mafia

The Caporalato phenomenon appears to be closely related to established and new forms of organized crime. However, exploitation of workers is not the only way in which illegality intervenes in the Italian food system53 There are also other unacceptable features, including contaminated products being dumped in rural areas, burned or poured into rivers; wholesale markets where farmers are forced to accept prices so low as to threaten their livelihood; purchases of land with proceeds from illegal activities; the presence of rather frequent counterfeit and toxic fertilizers that are imported or assembled in Italy and often sprayed by workers without adequate knowledge and safety measures. Reports and local realities reveal the increasing presence of criminal organization across the food chain, from farm to fork, through the two parallel phenomena of money laundering and money dirtying, i.e. the investment of clean capitals into the rigged food system because of the revenues that it can generate.54

d. The Law on double-race auctions and the Unfair Trade Practices Directive

One of the main challenges faced by small-scale farmers and transformers is the differential in bargaining power with buyers, and in particular traders and retailers. From North to South, Italian agriculture is struggling with the low prices paid by buyers, which often resonate to working conditions and environmental practices, but also lead to suicides and to an increase in farmers’ bankruptcies. In this context, a bill was approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) to ban double-race auctions for the purchase of agricultural goods as the most significant example of power differential between producers and buyers.55 I would welcome the final approval of the law by the Senate and hope the text will become law soon.

e. Milan Food Policy

The city of Milan can be considered as a virtuous example of metropolitan food policy obtained with the coordination between the city council and the main food actors in the city.56 The 5-years plan launched in 2015 is an ambitious programme, encompassing several important food related dimensions and recognizing the importance of going beyond municipality borders through two main measures: ensure coordination with the Metropolitan City and the creation of a Metropolitan food council that “shall promote co-responsibility processes of the actors of the Milanese food system (large area) through specific participatory processes that have an inclusive character”. From a right to food perspective, it is noteworthy that the food policy mentions the right to food as an important principle.

Yet, the conversations with civil society organizations show that neither the plan nor its implementation take a right based approach. In addition, the Metropolitan food council has not been established and there is little evidence of interactions with the peri-urban and rural areas, in particular with regards to know-how sharing and co-definition of policies. Finally, the effectiveness of the Milan food policy appears challenged by the conflict of competence between state, regions and local authorities in some crucial areas (e.g. infrastructures, health and school feeding).

f. Access to land for young farmers: privatization, confiscation and concessions

Access to land and other means of production is central to the support of small-scale agriculture and young farmers. This is recognized both by Italian public authorities and local organizations, with several initiatives taken at the legislative level that are worth mentioning. First of all, Article 66 of Decree n. 1 of 24 January 2012, also known as ‘Decree Save Italy’ gives the Government the power to sell land belonging to the State and use the revenues in order to repay public debt (art. 66.9). The idea of selling unused land to new farmers was warmly welcomed by Coldiretti, the largest association of farmers in Italy and one of the largest in the European Union, and a National Land Bank was established in 2016 (law 154/2016).

Although commendable, it must be noted that a right to food approach to access to land must highlight that the transfer of public land should be organized around public goals that go beyond the ‘sole’ use of empty land.57 For example, the sale of the land favours actors already disposing of enough capital or access to loans, missing the opportunity of supporting those families and individuals who cannot afford to buy land on the market. For this reasonI was inspired by law 109/96 on the confiscation of goods (including land) from mafia and their allocation into the national patrimony of the State so that they cannot be the object of sale and privatization but only distributed in concession.58

g. Climate change and right to food in Italy

2019 has been a dire year for Italian weather, not only because it was among the hottest years ever recorded, but also because of the new record of 157 extreme events including cloudbursts, tornados, wildfires, droughts and landslides. There is no doubt that climate change is affecting the Italian peninsula, with projections of a loss of 8% of its GDP by 2050,59 and that the agri-food system is among the first to suffer.60 Desertification, lower yields,61 less hours worked due to the extreme temperatures, diseases and the loss of crops are environmental realities that have a socio-economic impact and mostly affect farmworkers employed in greenhouses and in the field,62 but also farmers who are exposed to debt, have an insufficient financial buffer and cannot cope with the loss or reduction of their income.63

In addition, climate change risks to deepen the North-South divide and to radically transform the agricultural scaffolding of Italy, with more abandonment of farms, loss of biodiversity and an increased dependency on imports. Furthermore, the changes in the weather patterns is also leading to the increase of alien species on land and in the sea, with a 96% increase in the last 30 years, with significant consequences on farming and fishing.64

In this context, Italy should avoid adopting quick-fix solutions or intensifying conventional farming, the use of pesticides65 or considering the possibility of genetically modified crops. None of these solutions would be compatible with the respect of its human rights’ obligations. On the contrary, there is a “need for a major shift from industrial agriculture to transformative systems such as agro-ecology that support the local food movement, protect small holder farmers, respect human rights and cultural traditions, and at the same time maintain environmental sustainability and facilitate a healthy diet.”66

h. Environmental crimes, pesticides and Xylella fastidiosa

The country visit has exposed the existence of circumstances where agricultural and food practices have a negative impact on the environment and prevent the establishment of a sustainable food system.

I learned about the severity and long-term consequences of environmental crimes concerning the illegal disposal of waste in agricultural land, the contamination of waters and the illegal production, circulation and use of pesticides and fertilizers that have a significant impact on the people who are exposed to it. I was particularly concerned with the situation in the ‘Terra dei Fuochi’ (Land of Fires), in particular with regard to the process of remediation of contaminated land, the end of the illegal activities, and the support to small-scale farmers who continue to be affected by criminal actions and the citizens whose health has been compromised.67 Moreover, the respect of the right to food requires a stronger intervention to alt the import, production and use of illegal pesticides that have negative effects on workers and consumers’ health, along with a reliable system of sanitary support for anyone directly exposed to toxic products.

In addition, I was confronted to the problem of the growing number of desiccated olive trees in Apulia region. Voices and opinions gathered on the ground demonstrate that national policies and decisions taken in the context of the ‘Xylella emergency’ have not led to a clear assessment of the link between the presence of the bacteria, the desiccation of the trees and other circumstances such as climate change, monoculture, and high levels of pesticides and fertilizers in the area.68 The short and long-term implications of the desiccation may radically transform the agricultural texture of the region, and it is essential that national, regional and local measures are adopted in full coordination with farmers and with particular attention to the environmental, social and economic impact of the decision.


a. Italy’s contribution to Global Food Policy

Italy is one of the active participants in global policies on food systems, and home of the Rome based institutions (FAO, IFAD and WFP as well as World Committee of Food Security). Italy and FAO have a unique and special relationship. As host country to FAO’s headquarters since 1951, Italy has been an integral part of its history and culture. Italy contributes 30 million US Dollars in a year to FAO’s budget, one of the largest voluntary contributors, supporting a variety of activities to achieve food security and poverty reduction.69 It is no surprise, then, that Italy has been a crucial partner in FAO’s mission to reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition all over the world.

The Italian development policy framework directly connects with FAO’s mandate to ensure global nutrition, by highlighting sustainable agriculture, along with food security, with a focus on rural areas, women’s empowerment, and support to smallholder farmers and producer organizations. After 2015, these principles also aligned with Sustainable Development Goals.

Committee of World Food Security (CFS)

The reformed Committee of World Food Security of 2009 (CFS) represents an example of a unique model of inclusive, participatory, transparent and democratic governance of the global food policy, aiming at achieving policy coherence and promoting accountability around the right to food. In CFS, Governments retain their decision-making role, yet civil society is given an opportunity to participate in the process. Italy as an active member of the CFS defends its inclusive, rights-based approach to global food security, and support all Voluntary Guidelines and Policy documents. Italy has also supported the preparation of two technical guidelines: one dedicated to the role and responsibilities of the private sector in responsible agricultural investments (RAI) and another one in the use of innovative technologies in land administration. However, as seen before, at national level, the right to food has not been legally included in its constitution.

Mediterranean and other Traditional Diets

Government of Italy supports healthy diet initiatives in global level, promoting Mediterranean diet and other traditional diets, which is healthy, and sustainable and supports local agriculture. This initiative is an especially important one while the CFS is working on Draft Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition.

Codex Alimentarius

The Codex plays an important role in ensuring the safety, quality and fairness of international food trade. Italy is a proponent of and contributes to it on a voluntary basis. Italy actively participates in the Codex Commission, which sets international standards, guidelines, codes of conduct and best practices.70

G7 / G8 Activities

Italy is one of the members of the G-7, the “Group of Seven” countries that constituted the seven largest advanced economies in the world. These countries represent more than 62% of the global net wealth, more than 46% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) based on nominal values and more than 32% of the global GDP based on purchasing power parity. These figures indicate that Italy’s role and impact on agriculture and food systems in the globalized world is significant.

In the aftermath of global food prices crises, the G7/G8 countries committed themselves by launching the 2009 L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) with the following priorities: dynamic transformation of rural areas; responsible investment; sustainable agriculture, nutrition, food security; and nutrition in areas of conflict and crisis.

In 2012, the G8 launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a development project aimed at feeding 10 food insecure countries in Africa. Its goal is to achieve "sustained and inclusive agricultural growth in Africa" and "bring 50 million people out of poverty by 2022". Italy has agreed to pledge, although not using additional resources, 63 million dollars: in 2015 it had only disbursed 12, the 19% of the pledge, highlighting a limited interest of Italian cooperation in this initiative, despite participating in three countries: Ethiopia, Senegal and Mozambique.71

Development Policies to Developing Countries

Through Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), “the EU seeks to take account of development objectives in all of its policies that are likely to affect developing countries”72: any national and European policy that is likely to affect developing countries should thus be confronted with the obligations to promote development and strengthen the realization of human rights. Although it should not be forgotten that EU countries, including Italy, support and promote theright to food in relation to food aid in developing countries, but never consider that they should also be responsible for the implementation of the right to food in their own backyard.

In Italy, PCD is a legal commitment since August 2014, when the new Law on Development Cooperation (Law n. 125/2014) entered into force. The Law established an Inter-ministerial Committee for Development Cooperation (CICS) with the aim of ensuring coordination of development policies and the National Council for Development Cooperation.

Despite all these initiatives, in early years of the decade of 2010, there was no structural change in the global economic order to protect developing countries from future economic downturn. As a result, hunger and malnutrition have increased, in the past few years, especially in Sub-Saharan African countries from which Italy receives most of the new immigrants.

Regional level

The EU Food and Nutrition Action Plan

In March 2010, the EU published the EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges or Food Security Policy Framework (FSPF). According to the framework, the EU and its Member States had to go through a process of biennial reporting of the implementation. The document was framed under a Right to Food lens and with an emphasis on small scale producers. 73 Despite this commitment, the implementation plan and reports dismissed these priorities to promoting the role of the private sector and agribusiness investment in agriculture and food security.74

The 2014 first biennial report75, however, underlines again the important of the right to food and the strengthening of civil society and farmers’ organizations, as well as their involvement in decision-making and implementation of programs. Despite the focus, performance criteria are mostly quantitative instead of qualitative. Moreover, the report refers more to the implementation plan than to the FSPF and the right to food loses the centrality that it held in the FSPF.76

The 2016 report was even more concerning.77 The Commission picked two priorities, but only the first one was among the list of FSPF’s priorities (enhance nutrition). The second priority on ‘inclusive agrifood chains and systems’ was not in the FSPF nor in the implementation plan.

Throughout the years, Italy tried to secure a serious monitoring of the FSPF. However, efforts were not successful. The failure is coupled with an almost inexistent voice within the EU on priorities like agroecology.78
It is fundamental to underline the importance for Italy to be firm in supporting a right-based approach to EU’s different policies, to remind the centrality of policy coherence for development and the extraterritorial reach of human rights obligations, and to ensure that there are no discrepancies between EU policies, or between European policies and its national policies.79


Italy and FAO have been partners in assessing and monitoring the fisheries and fish stock in the Strait of Sicily, in order to ensure that marine resources in this part of the Mediterranean are used sustainably. This means finding the right balance that keeps stocks within safe biological limits, while allowing enough fishing activities to provide food and income for surrounding fishing communities.80

3 ISTAT – La poverta’ in Italia 2018 - available atà-in-Italia-2018.pdf

4 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25(1): “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services...”. [1948].

5 “The he Italian legal system conforms to the generally recognised principles of international law.”

6 Constitution of the Italian Republic, Article 117(1): “Legislative powers shall be vested in the State and the Regions in compliance with the Constitution and with the constraints deriving from EU legislation and international obligations.” [1948].

7 Final report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the Role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights, A/HRC/30/49, August 7, 2015. [Hereinafter Final Report on the Role of local government].

8 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 4, the right to adequate housing (art. 11 (1) of the Covenant), para. 12, adopted at the Sixth Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on 13 December 13, 1991.

9 T. Ferrando, V. De Gregorio, S. Lorenzini and L. Mahillon, The Right to Food in Italy between Present and Future (2018), p. 11.

10 Ibid, p. 14.

11 Milan Food Policy Guidelines 2015-2020 of the City Council of Milan, 2015.

12 T. Ferrando, V. De Gregorio, S. Lorenzini and L. Mahillon, The Right to Food in Italy between Present and Future, (2018), p. 15-16.

13 Enrico Bertacchini, Regional legislation in Italy for the protection of local varieties, available at

14 Ibid, p. 12.

16 Reddito di Cittadinanza  -

18 The Guardian: Chefs Massimo Bottura and his global movement to feed the hungry – available at

20 FAO, Country Profile: Italy, available at:

21 The practice involves large supermarkets, who bid on processing companies produce way before the harvesting season. Supermarkets first communicate an initial offer and several days later a second round of bidding is opened which uses as a start price the lowest bid received during the first round. This forces processing companies to bid on the basis of the lowest price received. 

23 Indipendent - Sicilian mafia ripped off millions in EU farm aid, Italian police say. Available at

24 See, among others: NYT, Migrant crisis: Mafia exploits cheap labour in farm ghettos, 25 August 2017,

25 ISTAT, censimento agricolo 2010

26 Pesticidi nel Piatto – Legambinete 2012

27 EuroNews, Which EU countries consume the most pesticides? (15/10/2018), available at

28 IOM, Migrant’s contribution to Italy Welfare, Italy, October 2017. Available at:'%20contributions.pdf

29 Istat, January 2017. Available at:

30 IOM, Migrant’s contribution to Italy Welfare, Italy, October 2017, p.1. Available at:'%20contributions.pdf

31 (Fondazione Moressa, 2017).

32 Istat, 2019. Available at:

34 Openpolis foundation and NGO ActionAid, 4 November 2019 ( and Amnesty International, Report on Irregular Migration, 24 January 2019 (

35 ICRC, Universal Periodic Review (UPR), NGO Alternative Report (34th Session October-November 2019), 27 March 2019, page 4. Available at:

36 ICRC, Universal Periodic Review (UPR), NGO Alternative Report (34th Session October-November 2019), 27 March 2019, page 4-5. Available at:

37 IPS News, Agromafia’ Exploits Hundreds of Thousands of Agricultural Workers in Italy, July 2018. Available at:

38 FAO, Family farming knowledge platform. Available at:

39 OECD, Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat - Italy Key Facts. Available at:

40 OECD, Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat. Available at:

41 OECD, Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat. Available at:

42 ISTAT AND UNICEF, Bambini e adolescenti tra nutrizione e malnutrizione, 2013, available at

43 Ministry of Health, CCM, Gaining in Health programme. Available at:

44 Economic and Social Council, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of Italy, E/C.12/ITA/CO/5, 28 October 2015, para. 51.

46 Ministry of Health, Interdisciplinary roundtable for the promotion of breastfeeding. Available at:

47 REDUCE Project (2019) An integrated approach for the prevention of food waste, available from; Ferrando T. and J. Mansuy (2018) The European Action against Food Loss and Waste: Co-Regulation and Collisions on the Way to the Sustainable Development Goals, Yearbook of European Law 37, 424-454.

48 L.166/2016, “Disposizioni concernenti la donazione e la distribuzione di prodotti alimentari e farmaceutici a
fini di solidarieta' sociale e per la limitazione degli sprechi” (16G00179), entered into force on September 14,
2016, art. 1.

49 Latour G. (2019) Supermarket e ristorante: cresce la solidarieta’ anti spreco, Il Sole 24 Ore, 8 September.

50 Legge 29 ottobre 2016, n 199, Disposizioni in materia di contrasto ai fenomeni del lavoro nero, dello sfruttamento del lavoro in agricoltura e di riallineamento retributivo nel settore agricolo, art. 1; Mangano A (2014) Violentate nel silenzio dei campi a Ragusa. Il nuovo orrore delle schiave romene, in L’Espresso,
September 15, available online; Mangano, A. (2017), Sfruttamento, stupri e aborti: le braccianti rumene in Sicilia vivono ancora come schiave, in L’Espresso, June 5, available online; Candito A. (2018) Migrante ucciso in Calabria a colpi di fucile: era un attivista del sindacato, in La Repubblica, June 3, available online.; Mangano A. (2018) La strage silenziosa dei campi, dove italiani e migranti muoiono insieme, in L’Espresso, June 15, available online.

51 Leogrande A. (2018) Uomini e caporali (Milan: Universale Economica Feltrinelli); Omizzolo M. (2019) Sotto Padrone (Milan: Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli); Palmisano L. (2017) Mafia Caporale (Rome: Fandango Libri).

52 Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto &FLAI CGIL (2018) IV Rapporto Agromafie e Caporalato (Milan, Hoepli Editore); OXFAM AND TERRA! ONLUS (2018) Human Suffering in Italy’s Agricultural Value Chain (Rome: Oxfam and Terra! Onlus); #FilieraSporca (2016) Spolpati: La crisi dell’industria del Pomodoro tra sfruttamento e insostenibilità. Third campaign report.

53 Eurispes, Colidretti & Osservatorio sulla criminalita’ (2019) Rapporto Agromafie 2018 (Rome: Eurispes); Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto & FLAI CGIL (2018); Plamisano L. (2017)

54 Caselli G.C & G.M. Fara (2015) Money dirtying, ovvero quando la Mafia conviene,, available online.

55 On double-race auctions, see Liberti and F. Ciconte (2018) I discount mettono all’asta l’agricoltura italiana, in Internazionale, July 25, available online.

56 Milan Food Policy Guidelines 2015-2020 of the City Council of Milan, 2015.

57 Cotula L. (ed) (2009) The Right to Food and Access to Natural Resources Using Human Rights Arguments and Mechanisms to Improve Resource Access for the Rural Poor (Rome: FAO).

58 Legge 7 marzo 1996, n. 109 Disposizioni in materia di gestione e destinazione di beni sequestrati o confiscati.

59 Ronchi E. (2019) Relazione sullo stato della green economy (Roma: Fondazione per lo sviluppo sostenibile)

60 Osservatorio di Legambiente CittaClima (2019) Il clima e’ gia’ cambiato (Roma: Legambiente e Unipol Gruppo).

61 According to the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici, “Since the 60s, the crop yield potential for maize has been reduced by 10.2%, the one for winter wheat has gone down by 5%, the spring wheat potential has reduced by 6%, the soybean potential has gone down by 7%, and the rice yield potential has gone down by 5%”. CMCC (2019) Global heating is expensive to Italian people, available online.

62 Liguori C. (2019) Bracciante in nero muore nella serra a Varcaturo, denunciato l’imprenditore, Il Mattino, 1 Settembre, available online.

63 For example, the 2003 heat wave caused more than 4 billion Euro of damages to the agricultural sector, while few months of drought of 2016/2017 caused at least 100 million Euro of damages. See Copacogeca, (2003), “Assessment of the impact of the heat wave and drought of the summer 2003 on agriculture and forestry”. General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union, Brussels.

64 For example, the Italian government has estimated the economic loss for farmers due to the Asian stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) to more than 500 million euros. See, Italian Delegation to the EU Council, Serious damage caused by the Asian stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) to the fruit and vegetable sector - Information from the Italian delegation, Brussels 9 October 2019.

65 Ministero delle politiche agricole alimentary e forestali (2019) Cimice asiatica, Bellanova alla Ue: "Grave errore la mancata autorizzazione. Serve deroga nazionale per tutela dei nostri agricoltori" (Rome: MPAAF)

66 Elver H. (2015) Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, A/70/287, para 87.

67 Forte I.M. et al (2019) Blood screening for heavy metals and organic pollutants in cancer patients exposed to toxic waste in southern Italy: A pilot study, Journal of Cellular Physiology, 1-10.

68 Ministero delle politiche agricole alimentary e forestali (2015) Relazione sullo stato di attuazione delle Misure di contrasto alla Xylella fastidiosa

69 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO + Italy - Partnering for food security and prosperity (2019), p. 8.

70 FAO, About Codex Alimentarius, available at

71 T. Ferrando, V. De Gregorio, S. Lorenzini and L. Mahillon, The Right to Food in Italy between Present and Future (2018), p. 80-83.

72 European Union, Policy for Development, Policy Coherence Approach, available at

73 European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament:
An EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges. COM(2010)127
final. Brussels, EC, 31 March 2010.

74 CONCORD, “Monitoring a Moving Target: Assessment of the Implementation Plan of the EU Food Security
Policy Framework,” Briefing Paper, January 2017. Available at

75 EC, Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Implementing EU food and nutrition security policy commitments: first biennial report. COM(2014) 712 final. Brussels, EC, 2 Dec 2014, available at

76 Council of the European Union, Outcome of the Council meeting: 3391st Council meeting: foreign affairs, development. Brussels, EU, 26 May 2015, p7.

77 EC, Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Implementing EU food and
nutrition security policy commitments: second biennial report. COM(2016) 244 final. Brussels, EC, 6 June 2016.

78 Nora McKeon, Right to Food in Italy: Food security Policy and development cooperation (Interview).

79 T. Ferrando, V. De Gregorio, S. Lorenzini and L. Mahillon, The Right to Food in Italy between Present and Future (2018), p. 76.

80 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO + Italy - Partnering for food security and prosperity (2019), p. 36.