Italian hazelnut crisis – is this ecocide?

The question of ecocide is to be debated at a special webinar this week as part of EU Green Week.

One of the lakes in the area Lago di Vico has been scientifically proven to be eutrophised from the chemicals used by the hazelnut industry.

StopEcocide International is hosting a webinar on the hazelnut crisis in Central Italy to debate whether the situation is a case of ecocide, and what can be done about it.

Ecocide is defined as criminalised human activity that violates the principles of environmental justice, by substantially damaging or destroying ecosystems or by harming the health and well-being of a species, including humans.


In Tuscia, almost 1,000 hectares of land around lake Bolsena has been taken over by the hazelnut industry since 2018.

Italian firm Ferrero SpA uses 30 percent of the world’s hazelnut supply mainly for the production of the Nutella chocolate spread brand. Through its Progetto Nocciola Italia plan, it is shifting its main production source out of Turkey, replacing it with 20,000 hectares of hazelnut plantations in Italy by 2026.

Opponents say that this monoculture crop is causing significant damage to the surrounding environment.  


“One of the lakes in the area Lago di Vico has been scientifically proven to be eutrophised from the chemicals used by the hazelnut industry, and Lake Bolsena had its highest nitrogen and phosphorous reading last month, so will follow suit if nothing is done,” said eco-activist James P Graham.

The webinar, held during EU Green Week, aims to provoke a dialogue around the legal framework needed to prevent ecosystemic pollution, using the case of Tuscia as a live example of where continuing abuse could become catastrophic.

Speakers include Jojo Mehta from SEI, Italian MEP Eleonora Evi, Lara Fornabaio from Client Earth. Vandana Shiva’s organisation Navdanya International will moderate the webinar.

The event will be in Italian but English subtitles will be added to the recording, which will be available on Youtube. To register, click here.  

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She tweets at @Cat_Early76.

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