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biotechnology food

The infiltration of organized crime in food business and bioterrorism through the use of biotechnology

Brussels -

UNICRI briefed different Director Generals of the European Commission on the infiltration of organized crime in food business and bioterrorism through the use of biotechnology. Organized by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the meeting aimed at discussing possible forms of cooperation in the area of Big Data analytics and visualization, in cooperation also with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). On that occasion, a “knowledge hour” was also organized by the DG to sensitize the staff to issues related to food fraud.

Mr. Marco Musumeci, Programme Officer of UNICRI, described the modus operandi of organized crime in food fraud and the possibilities opened by the acquisition and/or control of legal enterprises by criminal groups. The infiltration into the legal economy allows criminals to effectively reinvest illicit capitals, launder proceeds of crime and acquire control over operators of the legal economy which represents an open door into the legitimate market to further increase profits and power. Cases have been registered where food operators were controlled by criminals or were forced to market food products imposed by organized crime. Latest trends and operations were also presented, with a specific focus on the use of vans to market fraudulent products and target small shops, a modus operandi which is progressively becoming more widespread in Europe.

Mr. Francesco Marelli, Head of Unit of UNICRI, presented a risk scenario related to the deliberate contamination of food by exploiting synthetic biology. This scenario was part of a set of risk scenarios related to threats associated with weapons of mass destruction terrorism that UNICRI, in partnership with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), has prepared and discussed with security experts from the industry, academia and other international organizations.