DEFENSE OF GEOGRAPHIC INDICATIONS FOR THE TYPICAL PRODUCTIONS OF THE WORLD

The theme was the topic of a conference held in Rome, during which the "International Parmigiano-Reggiano Award" was also presented to Café de Colombia

Rome, October 19, 2006 - Many food products are so deeply rooted in the land as to be remembered above all for their zone of origin, where they are obtained with traditional methods and craftsmanship and for this reason differ sharply from industrial products. This concept was the theme of a conference on "Geographic Indications: Europe opens its doors to the world" held today in Rome and attended by Paolo De Castro, Minister for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
In his introductory remarks, the president of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, Giuseppe Alai, declared that "We must not waver in our efforts - said Alai - to establish the value to world trade of safeguarding products of specific origins, not simply to ensure our own self-referentiality, but to offer the 'global' consumer the appropriate guarantees and the possibility of a real recognition of the value of the products, because Geographic Indications are an instrument of access to the market".
The event in Rome proposes to analyze the bond between product and origin, in an attempt to overcome the overlapping and confusion that all too often arises among products with the DOP label and brand name products, two categories that have a great tradition in Italy.
In this connection, Antonio Berenguer of the European Commission presented a paper at the conference which examined the history of the regulations on application of the DOP and IGP origin labels (2081/92) with which the European Union recognized the value of the link between the food product and the land of its origin, and established an entire juridical system for the protection and safeguard of the special indications reserved for those products. Over the years, this protection has undergone a process of evolution (510/06) that recently led to the recognition also of products originating (i.e."Geographic Indication") even outside of Europe. This news opens important prospects for establishing the principle, as Ester Olivas of OriGIn pointed out, among the rules of international trade within the WTO, of the Geographic Indications not as limitations of competition but as valorizations of a specific tradition and characteristics of the products, for the benefit of producers and consumers alike.
In Italy, these regulations have been accepted and are widely applied, and Laura La Torre, general director of Product Quality for Ministry for Agrarian, Food and Forestry Policies, reminded the meeting that Italy currently leads the world in DOP and IGP products, both in number and in quantities produced: this is an indication of the strategic weight of the products of origin and of the extent of the system of safeguards. In recent years, the national legislation that applied the standards of European safeguards to this sector has undergone major revision, culminating with a decree recently enacted containing specific sanctions to increase the guarantees of protection of the products.
Aside from the mechanisms of the safeguards, it is primarily in the procedures for recognition of the products that Italy must adopt a specific strategy to preserve the value of the system of protection, safeguarding it from the risk of an inflation of protected products, regulations and licenses of safeguards which attribute the same value to products that are really the expression of the land as to others that lack such strong traditions. Giuseppe Liberatore, president of the Italian Association of Consortiums of the Geographic Indications says that the "Italian DOP system" should learn from the tradition of the Consortiums, establishing a system for recognition of the essential characteristics.
Products of Italian origin must be distinguishable in a definite way from products that generically refer to our country, taking advantage of names that are "Italian sounding". This phenomenon was recently investigated and the findings revealed that there is no way to distinguish products that are the real expression of an area from products that are generically "Italian" and that this creates a good deal of confusion among the consumers. Leo Bertozzi, director of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, supports the need to distinguish products of authentic origin (IG), that have achieved renown within an area both because of the raw material used to produce them and for the craftsmanship and skill involved, from products defined simply as "Made in Italy" that are the expression of a generic Italian origin but that are linked to the tradition of many industries that have refined and adopted their own processes of selection, production and valorization of agricultural products that may actually originate in any part of the world.
As regards, for example, a product that is very widely used and enjoyed in Italy, like coffee, Luis Fernando Samper, director of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, states that beans produced and processed under the conditions observed in Colombia are an authentic expression of the territory of origin. He further indicates that the well known trademark "Cafè de Colombia" has created the necessary awareness among world consumers so that Colombian coffee is appreciated in its full dimension, allowing people to appreciate the characteristics of that country's coffee, based on climatic and environmental conditions, and the fact they those characteristics ensure the coffee manufacturers and consumers of a unique material and a product with particular requisites. Even these products can be recognized by the European Union as products of their origins and the manufacturers who use them must take this into account. In particular, the Federation presented an application in June 2005 to the European Commission to obtain IGP recognition for Colombian coffee, and this is the first request from a country outside Europe to recognize its Geographic Indications.
Continuing this reflection with regard to another typically Italian product, pasta, Mario Rummo, president UN.I.P.I. (the Italian pasta-makers Industrial Association) declared that the tradition of the Italian pasta industries contributes an important and decisive added value to the raw material - durum wheat - which need not originate entirely in Italy, thanks to consolidated manufacturing methods that have enabled the finished product to obtain success worldwide.
"The typical productions of quality are the agricultural and food legacy of our country - declared the minister, Paolo De Castro, in his concluding remarks - and they contain, in addition to the greatness of their flavor, the image of our country. That is why they so validly mean "Italy" wherever they are enjoyed. Their defense and support are a commitment that we carry on with the maximum conviction. Only the quality and ability to build a system around these products can enable our country to meet the challenge of globalization".
At the end of the conference, the president of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, Giuseppe Alai, presented Luis Fernado Samper, representative of the producers of "Café de Colombia", with the "International Parmigiano-Reggiano Award", now in its second edition and established in 2004 by the Consortium to reward the commitment to the defense and valorization of the typical food products of the world. In awarding "Café de Colombia", the Consortium ideally awarded recognition to the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, the organization that for almost 80 years has played a significant role in improving the conditions of cultivation and life of the populations linked to the production of coffee, and has established the identity throughout the world of Café de Colombia. Moreover, following the procedure permitted by the European regulations, it was the first organization to apply for the recognition and protection granted to DOP and IGP products, opening the way for an extension of the Geographic Indications outside Europe.