The European Parliament and the Council, the co-legislators of the European Union, have agreed to work on a new regulation that will review and reform the rules for registering and protecting geographical indications (GIs) for wines, spirits and agrifood products, including extra virgin olive oil and table olives.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., initiated the process after an evaluation last year showed that the existing procedures and legal requirements for certifying food products from European producers as GIs are time-consuming and lack flexibility and a high level of protection.
“Geographical indications represent one of our great E.U. agri-food success stories,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, the E.U. commissioner for agriculture, commenting on the provisional agreement between the two legislative bodies.See Also:Europe Approves PDO for Memecik from Aydın, Turkey
“They preserve our unique heritage and traditions, and they support rural job creation: the value of a product with a protected name is, on average, double that for similar products without a certification,” he added. “Strengthening our GI system will benefit all our producers and regions.”
The new measures will include strengthening producer groups by providing them with more rights and recognition, limiting the time required to scrutinize new applications for GI registration to six months and improving the protection of GIs used as ingredients and online.
A practical guide on protecting GIs on the Internet published by the Association of European Regions of Origin Products (AREPO) this year highlighted the lack of adequate protection for GI names on the World Wide Web.
The guide noted, for example, that the allocation of domain names by ICANN, the American non-profit organization responsible for managing the global domain name system, is an essentially loose process that leaves room for the misuse of Europe’s GI product names.
“The internet appears to be the main vector of economic development today for all the players in the agricultural world, particularly in the GI sectors,” the guide authors wrote. “Nevertheless, the internet is also a place of exposure to new risks that need to be properly identified to guard against them and avoid endangering GIs, their image and their reputation.”
Once the new regulation comes into force, the E.U. member states must take administrative and judicial measures to prevent or stop the illegal use of GI food product names online.
The new legislation is also expected to implement new requirements to further promote environmental sustainability and animal welfare in food production across the E.U. member states.
The E.U.’s geographical indications include the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) schemes, which aim to certify the quality, characteristics and reputation of agricultural and other food products linked to natural and human factors in specific European regions.
They also enable European consumers to distinguish quality products and producers better to market their products more efficiently.
There are more than 3,500 European products with a PGI or a PDO certification. In contrast, more than 1,500 GIs worldwide are protected in the E.U. from imitation and counterfeiting through bilateral trade agreements.
In financial terms, food products protected by the E.U.’s Geographical Indications (GIs) system represent a sales value of around €80 billion annually.