Topic: Auditing Halal: Ethical Negotiations of GMOs in Italy
According to a recent report by Thomson Reuters, the market for halal food in Italy is estimated to value around 70 billion dollars globally. Further, there are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, 50 million of whom live in Europe and 1.7 million of whom live in Italy. The report concluded by estimating that halal certified Italian food is worth about 4 to 5 billion Euros. The value of the halal market—and to a lesser extent the kosher market—has led to an increase in Italian food producers in certifying their food with these religious designations. In this paper, I will focus on a halal certification audit at my fieldsite, a dairy cooperative in Sardinia, Italy. The data I analyze stem from 24 months of ethnographic research in Italy, focusing on the everyday bureaucratic practices surrounding food traceability regulation at the dairy cooperative Latte Arborea and its constitutive member farms during various periods from 2013 to 2018. More specifically, I will focus on a conflict that arose during the audit over the use of GMO feed by the farmers producing Latte Arborea’s milk. While some aspects of sharia law are fairly well established, such as the prohibition on eating pig products, other regulations around food are constantly in flux and open to debate depending on new food consumption and production trends. This example of GMOs unveils competing ideologies and values around the food system. National accreditation bodies in Muslim-majority countries interpret the Qur’an differently, with the UAE banning all use of GMOs in food. I will pay special attention to the broader legal and ethical infrastructures that negotiate concerns around the use of new technology in food production, such as GMOs, and religious value systems for understanding food ethics.