The Pesto war

Joined Jan 11, 2002
Since I've realized that Genoa Pesto has become so popular all around the world, and in US above all, I'll update you about a controversy that's filling the front pages of all newspapers in Liguria...the "Pesto War".
The controversy starts from the fact that recently Nestlè company (which produces Pesto industrially) patented two new Basil varieties (which are grown in Germany) naming them "Pesto" and "Sanremo". The Ligurian association of Pesto producers appealed to the European Community against this decision since, they maintained, those names are misleading and illegal as they can induce people to believe wrongly that the product comes from Liguria, and asked to the Community for a DOP (Protected Origin Denomination) to defend the original features of the Ligurian basil and/or Pesto from any distortion due to industrial purposes.
Of course, in their turn Nestlè and other food industries which widely commercialize Pesto appealed against this petition, arguing that nowadays "Pesto" has become the generic definition of a recipe (like "Ragù alla Bolognese" or "Pizza alla Napoletana") and that nobody can claim to be the only one authorized to call it this way, independently from the ingredients it's made of and their provenience.
The debate spread everywhere, involving the main authorities, also political, in Italy, and we can't see the solution yet (We're still waiting for a pronouncement from the European Community)

What is your opinion about this question?
I'm looking forward to your inputs!

Joined Jul 31, 2000
Dear Pongi,

Pesto is yours!!!!

This is another example of the all mighty $$$$ pulling punches.

I have just finished reading An Ecology of Mediterranean Gastronomy,Toussaint-Samat and Davidson to trace Pesto.

All write with romance and reverance to Basil and Pesto.

It is yours,I will write a bit later from my books.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
I think Italy will lose. This is not a statement that I think Italy should lose, merely that they will.

First, they are too late. Pesto has been applied as a term to anything remotely similar made with parsley, cilantro and many other green leafy herbs. This has been done in books through out the world and copyrighted.

Pesto is already produced commercially in many places through out the world and has done so without dispute. This is the legal principle of easement. As this has been a longstanding practice without dispute, the claim to pesto is no longer just Liguria's.

On the other hand, Nestle's attempt to copryight/trademark a name in common use in the industry is doomed to failure as well.

Joined Mar 13, 2001
It depends Mez. NOT if you call it "Wisconsin Pesto", "Pesto from my Backyard", "Pesto from my Garden" or "Pesto from my Kitchen"! :D
Joined Sep 30, 1999
This reminds me of the EU banana issue (regarding banning bananas based on their length and curvature? rather Freudian...) and the city of Gorgonzola suing the German manufacturer of Cambozola for fear that someone might confuse a crumbly blue with the triple creme soft cheese.
Joined Jan 11, 2002
I think you all are right.
Although Genovese, I too agree that the word "Pesto" is too generic to be copyrighted (as I just posted in another thread, actually here in Italy zillions of different Pestos are made), but the problem is, if I want to buy THAT Pesto, made of basil (possibly Ligurian basil;) ), pine nuts, EVOO and so on, what I have to look for?
At present, lots of Pestos are commercially produced under the name "Pesto Genovese" which contain any sort of other stuff, like parsley, walnuts, anacards (sp?), butter or margarine and so on. This is pretty obvious since the "real" Pesto Genovese calls for expensive ingredients, hardly compatible with the cheap price required for a widespread diffusion.
So, the war is directed against the indiscriminate use of the complete name "Pesto Genovese" to commercialize any sort of green sauce vaguely resembling our Pesto...but another problem is the detailed assessment of the admitted ingredients and their provenience (A "Protected Origin denomination" implies that you must use only ingredients coming from a definite area, i.e. Ligurian basil and oil, or Pecorino from Sardinia).
This is not easy, firstly because the genovese housewives and chefs theirselves often add to their Pesto ingredients like nuts, butter or small amounts of parsley, and secondly because the Liguria CANNOT produce enough basil to support a worldwide, this is a hard job for the European Community.
The first victory of the Ligurian producers has been that Nestlè retired its trademarks, announcing that the two basil names will be changed :) Probably, this is partially due to the fact that some of the main Italian supermarket chains have decided to stop selling the Nestlè Pesto and have sent back all the jars :) :)
Apart from this, there are no more news so far...

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