Italy: Organic media, initiatives, associations and trade fairs
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Greenplanet natural network was established in October 1995 by Proscenio, a no-profit association whose aim was promotion of a sustainable culture. In the dawning of the Italian web universe, quickly Greenplanet became the designer and host of organic associations’ and control bodies’ websites. In 2001 Saverio Zeni and Marco Gerbi (Greenplanet’s founders and still managing it) were joined by Roberto Pinton, former editor of Aiab’s Bioagricultura (at that time the only Italian organic magazine), who was running his own Bollettino Bio (organic news), a weekly newsletter targeted to organic farmers and traders/retailers.
Picture: Roberto Pinton
With Greenplanet’s platform Bollettino Bio became one of the most powerful tools for the Italian organic movement. At the current moment subscribers are 19,788. Besides Bollettino Bio, Greenplanet is publishing two monthly regional organic associations’ newsletters (Emilia Romagna Bio and Gaia Calabria News), a monthly recipes one, “Ecolibrando” (a bi-weekly ecological book review) and some other ones (about no-profit networking, local issues etc). Since Jan. 2005 to Oct. 2005 it has 9,713,296 pages viewed by 510,281 different users.
Greenplanet works mainly as a press-review, collecting all the news bout organic farming, food and nutrition, environment, ecology, sustainable ways of life (bio-architecture and textiles included) from Italian national and regional press, European and national laws, often with comments. Translation of the most relevant news from foreign press and press releases are provided too, in order to keep Italian organic people up-to-date. The site in updated several times a day. Bollettino Bio collects all the site’s news of the week (usually from 150 to 200) gathering by categories. Greenplanet contributes to RTSI (Italian speaking federal Swiss television), runs a radio-broadcasts in Green Party’s Eco-Radio and is esteemed as a reliable source by national newspapers and market magazines.
Part of its network are the most relevant organic associations websites.
Bio Bank / Tutto Bio
In June 1994 the first entrepreneur-oriented yearbook, ‘Bio 94’, was published and about 2,000 copies were distributed. For a more frequent link, to stimulate the sector, the Bio fax was born. In five years Bio Fax has published over 2,500 news items in the organic field. It comes out every 15 days, and its 6-8 pages are rich in information, divided into about thirty columns. In 1996, after two editions of the yearbook Tutto Bio, we started feeling increasing interest from consumers who called us directly to receive the yearbook or to get information. Also, the prestigious book seller Feltrinelli was interested in distributing it. This was the moment to go from a yearbook for business people to one for consumers. This meant developing the contents, becoming more popular, introducing more attractive graphics, and increasing the distribution. To do this, it was and still is fundamental that we collaborate with the Research Institute ‘Nomisma’ for the yearly collection and processing of data on the sector’s structure. In the same period, we started gathering the collected material under the name of ‘Bio Bank’. Today, the data bank contains over 20 files with data on more than 6,000 businesses: organic products companies and shops, agritourism farms, restaurants, supermarkets selling organic fruits and vegetables, organic canteens in schools, fair traders, eco-product companies and shops, companies supplying natural imputs, and so forth. The collected information is updated every year through a direct census. In 1998 a series of books is started for business and consumers. For more rapid diffusion of the information and to establish a presence abroad, we decided to create a web site (www.biobank.it) in 1999. It is not a simple stockpile of information, but a service site that is updated every 15 days. It allows users to search for the latest news, updated sector data, organic agritourism farms for their holidays, products, companies, and of course all our editorial products, which are sold on-line in a fast easy way.
(Picture: Bertino & Mingozzi)
There are some specific magazines for organic agriculture as AzBio and Bioagricultura. AzBio is a monthly magazine for organic agriculture, published by Il Sole 24 Ore Edagricole in Bologna. Topics are agriculture and marketing. http://www.edagricole.it.. The magazine Bioagricultura from the organic association AIAB mainly is made for producers but there are also marketing topics in it. www.aiab.it
In shops with organic products consumers can find magazines to inform about organic food, marketnews, ecological topics and recipes. The paper with the most tradition is Aam Terra Nuova, foundes in the 1970th from a initiative for alternative food, agriculture, medicine and environment. Today the magazine is published monthly and is sold in specialized shops. The Florence editor also publishes also the magazine „Salute e“ (Health is) and a wide range of books (http://www.aamterranuova.it). Renzo Agostini and Lorenzo Pozzo from the agency Terra e Sole (t & s) publish a magazine called Econauta. They also offer their service for analysis and marketing (http://fox.mag-news.it). Mangiarsano is a monthly lifestyle foodmagazine with organic themes in it (www. gruppofood.com).
Organic associations have an important task for the development of the organic market. ICEA - Istituto per la Certificazione Etica ed Ambientale is the most prominent body in Italy certifying products obtained with organic farming methods or having a great ethical, social and environmental relevance. ICEA is established in 2000 in Rome. Before, since 1988 AIAB (associazione for organic agriculture) managed a scheme for the inspection and certification of organic agri-food products.
Today ICEA’s activity covers four main sectors:
1. Inspection and certification
2. Research and development
4. International cooperation (USDA, NOP, JAS)
Other important associations
www.federbio.it (Federbio, Italian federation of organic associations)
www.prober.it (Prober, Emilia Romagna region organic farmers’ association, the largest in Italy, with about 4,000 members),
www.suoloesalute.it (Italian oldest control body)
Ifoam accredited control bodies: www.bioagricert.org, www.imcert.it , www.ecocertitalia.it, www.ccpb.it
www.altromercato.it (fair trade consortium)
www.ancalega.coop (mainstream national association of farmers’ cooperatives)
www.prodottibiologici.it (b2b, consumer portal)
Consorzio biologico per lo sviluppo sostenibile (Organic consortium for sustainable development, shortly Consortium) was established in July 2001 thanks to the efforts of half a dozen Italian organic companies. At that time large companies (fully organic or mainstream but with an organic range) haven’t their own association and were in need to establish a representative body for protection, promotion, representation and lobbying. In less than a year membership raises more than 60 companies (representing more than one third of the whole Italian organic turnover) and Consortium became a coordinated system with specific experience, actively working for the growth of the organic industry, co-operating with Fiao (now Federbio, the Federation of the whole Italian organic movement). It is not involved in control activities nor is bound to a specific control body or run its own warranty seal or commercial brands.
Consortium sponsored Florence University master in organic agriculture and financed some studies (a clinic experience about weaning with organic baby food, carried out by Milan Children’s hospital and a research about comparison of biodiversity in organic and conventional vegetable farms carried out by Enthomology Department of Milan University). Consortium’s representatives take part in Ministry of Agricultural policies’ committees and commissions about organics.
In 2004 Consortium started a national advertising campaign (co-financed by the EU Commission and the State) in newspapers, women, food and consumers’ magazines (and in the Italian edition of Mickey Mouse, too) Another engagement of it is the daily monitoring of Italian media, in order to correct wrong news about organics, and the supply of right and honest news and information kit to press-men. Consortium take part in broadcasts and telecasts.
Consortium’s president is Mr. Cleto Casadei (of Confruit Ltd, a fruit juice producer), vice-president is Renato Quartesan (of Fattoria Scaldasole Ltd, a fully organic dairy).
In the last years research and statistics for the organic market are developed. The agriculture ministery run an extensive information portal on Italian and international organic agriculture,names SINAB (Sistema d´informazione nazionale sull´agricoltura biologica) , www.sinab.it. Prof. Dr Raffaele Zanoli, (universtity of Ancona) is the head of a coordination group for organic farming research called GRAB-IT (Gruppo di Ricerca in Agricoltura Biologica-Italia). www.diiga.univpm.it/grabit
Trade Fairs and Events
Sana has been held since 1988. It regards itself as the biggest international trade fair for natural products. The four-day event in September has for many years been occupying over 80 000 m2 of exhibition space on the trade fair site in Bologna. In fourteen pavilions, around 1 900 exhibitors display organic food and typical Italian specialities, cosmetics, wellness and health products, textiles and environmentally friendly products. The accompanying programme is being constantly extended. For example, in 2004 an international celiac congress was held for the first time and for the second time a special B2B exchange with over 200 participants took place. The majority of exhibitors and visitors come from within Italy, although it is slowly becoming more international: in 2004 almost 600 exhibitors came to Bologna from 45 countries, and 4 000 of the total 75 000 visitors came from abroad. 56 000 specialist visitors came to Sana during the four days. Saturday and Sunday are traditionally the days when the Trade Fair opens its doors to the consumer. Sana is the focus of a lot of attention in the media: in 2004 700 Italian and 100 foreign journalists reported the event, and in this context they disseminated information on the organic market and other aspects of the organic theme.
For the first time Bioworld, that is to held from 19-21 January 2006 in Ferrara, has been planned as an international trade fair with a new format. The specialist trade fair for organic agriculture, animal breeding, processing and semi-finished products will appeal to farmers, importers and distributors, wholesalers and purchasing associations, processors, people responsible for non-domestic catering, etc. The special exhibition “Seeds” which is integrated in Bioworld deals specifically with organic seed.
There are roughly another 30 regional and nationwide trade fairs concentrated in northern and central Italy that deal with organic themes, exhibit products and provide information. For the most part, the largely regional events concentrate on organic nutrition, cosmetics and medicinal herbs, or Fair Trade products. A part of the international exhibition MIA (Mostra Internationale dell’Alimentazione), that is held traditionally at the beginning of the year in Rimini, deals specifically with organic catering (4--7 February 2006).
Big environmental events at which sellers of organic products are to be found are Terra Futura, held since 2003 in Florence, http://www.terrafutura.it/, and Festambiente, the international event of the biggest Italian environmental association Lagambiente, which is held in August in Grosseto. This event includes an organic market, information stands and an extensive programme of entertainment.