Olive-oil uproar erupts in Greece over cheaper ‘blended’ product

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In the olive groves around Ancient Olympia, sanctuary of the Greek gods, the trees were once considered sacred, and in many ways they still are.

Carefully pruned and pampered, they are described by farmers with a reverence that could match the language used by makers of champagne or single malt whisky.

So plans to extend a brutal efficiency drive to olive oil production have been met with anger and disbelief. If proposals from a government-funded study are adopted, olive oil blended with cheaper vegetable oils will soon go on sale as part of an effort to modernize Greece’s economy, which was rescued from near bankruptcy four years ago.

One pro-government lawmaker called the proposal a “cause of war,” while olive producers in the fabled hills of the southern Peloponnese region worry that Greece could spoil its own signature product.

Illegal under current Greek law, the new product would need to prominently carry the label: “blended olive oil.” EU law does not prohibit blends, which are sometimes used in canned food, including in Spain, the world’s largest olive-oil producer.

“Greece would lose its monopoly on quality,” olive grower Aris Kolotouros said. “It would create a faceless product.”

On the featured photo: Greek Orthodox Priest Dimitris Vlasopoulos collects olives from a canvas tarp in Kalo Pedi village, about 335 kilometres west of Athens. Plans to extend a brutal efficiency drive to olive-oil production in Greece have been met with anger and disbelief.

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