Italy bucks global trend to show strong growth in organic wheat production

European Business & Biodiversity Campaign - News

Italy bucks global trend to show strong growth in organic wheat production

The latest global data on organic farming published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International, shows that at least 1.4 million hectares of wheat were under organic management in 2016, a slight decrease from over 1.5 million hectares in 2015.

Italy (almost 180,000 hectares), China (147,000 hectares) the USA (136,000 hectares) and Turkey (125,000 hectares) are among the largest organic wheat producers. 

250-fold leap in use of ancient grains in Italy

Despite a slight decrease in organic wheat area globally last year, Italy seems to be bucking the trend, showing 48% growth in the area of organic wheat between 2015 and 2016 (growing from 122,000 to 179,000 hectares). The use of ancient wheat varieties has also grown 250-fold in Italy during the last 20 years, with ancient grains now being used in pasta, bread and even pizza. 

Although the market of pasta, in general, recorded a slight decrease in Italy, the demand of pasta made with ancient variety of wheat is growing more and more. In fact, nowadays, the use of old varieties of wheat in the pasta making process may give value to the end product which is much appreciated by the consumer, with extraordinary opportunities for growth. The number of research projects funded in the last 10 years shows the interest of the Italian institutions towards the recovery of ancient and native breeds and varieties.

Ancient wheat varieties are generally defined as those varieties that have remained unchanged over the last hundred years. There is a growing interest in ancient wheat varieties, since recent studies have highlighted their healthier nutritional profile compared to modern wheat varieties. Moreover, while maintaining a high protein content, these ancient wheat varieties show a less toxic gluten.

‘1st International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems’

In June, a group of scientists from around the world will convene for the ‘1st International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems’. There, they will discuss the topics of landraces, including modern populations, ancient and heritage wheat with a focus on health and nutrition as well as natural flavors and aromas.

These scientists have recognized the many problems that many modern wheat varieties are causing. Between 12% and 20% of people in the industrialized world can no longer eat modern wheat products without health or digestive problems, plus modern processing and farming methods are causing serious environmental damage. The conference will provide a space to present and discuss alternatives to this kind of modern wheat as well as current industrialized farming systems and high speed, high volume food processing models.

The event will take place on 13-15 June in Bologna, Italy. The conference is organised by IFOAM - Organics International, Kamut International, ltd. and Kamut Enterprises of Europe bvba, and Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna.

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