Geographical indications offer clear added value, says Commission

GIs are "an important asset of rural territories" as well as "an important tool to promote regional identity and gastronomic heritage, especially in countries with a long history of GI protection," according to the paper. [Scorpp/Shutterstock]

Geographical indications offer a clear added value to agrifood products and are an “important asset” of rural territories, a new study, released by the European Commission last week, has concluded. EURACTIV France reports.

The study on the EU’s quality policy, published on 2 March, set out to verify whether GIs – which are supposed to protect producers from counterfeits, ensure fair competition and respect intellectual property rights – are really effective.

“Overall, the objectives of the EU GI/TSG regulation are being met,” the study confirmed, noting that the systems are efficient and relevant and that “no major inconsistencies were identified”.

In terms of effectiveness, the study found that “the legal framework allows for fair competition for farmers and producers involved in the GI/GTS value chain,” and that GIs are “an important asset of rural territories” as well as “an important tool to promote regional identity and gastronomic heritage, especially in countries with a long history of GI protection”.

The added value of the EU in the process is also mentioned in the study.

“Without the EU framework, the GI/TSG scheme might not exist in each [member state] and might not be homogeneous in the [member states] where it is established,” the study pointed out.

Having a review of procedures at the EU level is also ensuring consistency, the report added, while warning that “we see great differences in procedures” between member states.

As of 1 January, EU countries counted no fewer than 3,286 geographical indications (GIs) and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSGs) protected in the EU. Almost a quarter of the GIs and TSGs – 734 – come from France, which is second only to Italy.

Wine and agri-food products account for most GIs and TSGs, with 49% and 44% respectively, at the European level.

Dual food quality: no East-West divide, but different compositions persist

A report published by the European Commission’s research body on Monday (24 June) found that there is no ‘East-West food quality discrimination in Europe’. It said there was no consistent geographical pattern in the use of same or similar packaging for products with different compositions.

Some limitations persist

However, the study also points out “certain limitations”.

While GIs have “a positive effect on the internal market, providing a common reference for trade” between different member states, the authors voiced regret at the “low awareness and understanding” of labels in several European countries.

Furthermore, “despite the wealth of information provided to consumers, […] there is still some confusion between the different schemes,” demonstrating “the limited effectiveness of the system in providing clear information to consumers.”

The picture is also mixed when it comes to the income farmers receive from these schemes. The study notes that producers “can obtain improved prices and better income” as a result of GIs, yet these benefits are far from systematic.

Besides, the added value of the GI label does not “necessarily mean higher income, as GI production usually involves additional production costs.” In just over a half of the cases, however, having a GI or TSG label seems to have had a positive impact on the income of farmers and producers.

On top of that, the often lengthy procedural delays are identified as one of the main problems in terms of the efficiency of these schemes, both for the registration or modification of product specifications.

The study’s authors suggested that the GI dimension “related to the preservation and promotion of living local cultural heritage can be further developed”, noting that better communication towards consumers and simpler procedures would also be desirable.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Natasha Foote]

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