Gretchen HelfrichCryptocurrency


Blockchain technology, if you believe the hype, is going to revolutionize, well, everything.  In an effort to bring a little sobriety to the Blockchain party, Forbes last year identified ten industries in which Blockchain genuinely seemed likely to disrupt the status quo.  Banking, healthcare, and politics topped the list. Alas, Forbes failed to spot Blockchain’s actual highest and best use, which was achieved earlier this year.

You heard right.  Blockchain has peaked.  According to a report in Enterprise Times, Certified Origins Italia, Srl, a company based in Grosseto, Tuscany, is using the Oracle Blockchain Platform to track its Bellucci Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the bottling plant in Italy to the United States, preventing adulteration and false labeling, and ensuring that the Italian EVOO you buy is really what it claims to be.

Susan Testa, director of culinary innovation at Bellucci, says that “Fraud in the olive oil market had been going on a very long time.”  EVOO gets mixed with seed oil or with olive oil from other countries that is then peddled as Italian in origin.  

Needless to say, knock-off EVOO hurts Italian producers.  Tom Mueller, author of the book “Extra Virginity” estimates that 75-80% of the Italian olive oil sold in the United States is not what it claims to be on the label.  Even in Italy itself, the rate is around 50%, he says. This isn’t surprising, when you consider that in the United States, high-end Italian EVOO can cost up to $240 a liter. The incentives to commit olive oil fraud are strong.  So strong, in fact, that according to Mueller the Mafia is a major player, because why wouldn’t they be when the profit margins are three times the margin on cocaine?  

In Tuscany, some product protection comes from the Consorzio dell’olio Toscano IGP (Protected Geographical Indication), a designation which certifies that products are Tuscan in origin.  But that designation alone can’t prevent adulteration elsewhere in the supply chain.

Enter Blockchain and Certified Origin’s use of the technology to shore up the integrity of its products and to offer transparency to consumers.  The company claims to give consumers “access to detailed information about the harvest, the varietals and the individual contributing farms of origin for each bottle of oil.”  Consumers can then, presumably, rest easy knowing that there are dipping their salt-free bread (that’s the Tuscan way!) into the best that Tuscany has to offer.

In fairness, it should be noted that Spanish olive oil producers have been using Blockchain to prevent fraud for several months.  But, while Spanish olive oil may have a lot to offer, it’s not Italian EVOO.  The protection of Italian EVOO is clearly the crowning achievement of Blockchain technology.  Blockchain has nothing left to prove. No financial innovations or health care recordkeeping advances—no matter how radical or disruptive–can top preserving the authenticity of one of the most sublime tastes in existence.  Blockchain, your work is done.

Of course, you might still be better off heading to Tuscany in the fall and volunteering to help some local contadino with the raccolta, or harvest.  Even Blockchain can’t beat that.


Gretchen Helfrich

Gretchen Helfrich

Gretchen Helfrich is a former Ziliak Law attorney.
Gretchen Helfrich

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