From France’s world-famous cheeses to Italian "Parmigiano" and Greek “Kalamata Olives”, the EU culinary treasures are under strain because of climate change.
This year’s drought, which scientists say is the worst in 500 years, has damaged all sorts of harvests in Europe and endangered the production of Europe's regional specialties, protected under an EU seal.
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) goods are part of the food heritage of Europe. This is why the European Union dictates precise regulations for their protection, creating specific quality standard criteria.
Within the EU, there are nearly 3500 products under these quality labels, but harsher and more frequent weather events are making it harder for producers to stick to the traditional recipes and procedures. In France, dairy farmers say that the drought has dried up the prairie grass that is central to their cows’ diet.
Many producers got exemptions to keep using the lucrative EU stamp despite not meeting standards.
Hubert Dubien, is the President of PDO labelled cheeses in France and he says there have been unprecedented requests for exemptions, "28 PDO this year, historically we've never seen that, we used to have requests for temporary modifications to the specifications, especially in the south of France, and now we realize that there are more PDO products affected in total but also more in the north of France."
Will these criteria changes, or modify the quality and taste of the product? We asked Carole Ly, Head of INAO, the French National Institute Of Origin and Quality.
"We are very careful that the typicality of the product remains, so that the taste of the milk and therefore the taste of the cheese is not modified, as an example, the french cheese called, comté, will remain the same, comté, and the consumer will not notice the difference."
France is one of the Member States with the most products with a label, just behind Italy and it's in this country, in the Po Valley, that record-low levels of the river irrigating the fields have impacted the production of Parmigiano, which is expected to decline.
In Spain, the Iberico pigs, from which comes Bellota ham, have run out of food, and prices are expected to rise.
All over Europe, this year’s heatwave put a strain on producers making it harder to stick to the standards of the labels, and with the climate having an increasing impact on agriculture, more than ever, these producers will have to learn to adapt to the changing conditions.