Eco-food and national quality products: advantages for European farmers

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Eco-food and eco-farming are entering European agricultural producers’ priorities. The EU is acting to further protect national “specifics” through specialty’s guaranteed, designation of origin and other indications. This direction in national agro-policies can provide a perspective competitive edge to local farmers both in the EU and around the world. 

The European Union protects more than 3 thousand names of specific products – foodstuffs, agricultural products, wines, spirit drinks and aromatized wine products. These farmers’ products generally belong to one of existing EU’s food-quality schemes: Geographical Indication (GI), Protected Designations of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), as well as Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).
The aim of the EU quality schemes is to contribute to the evaluation of the overall functioning of the European quality products with a focus on the registered names from the EU states and third countries’ products sold on the EU internal market.
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Additional protection is needed
Geographical indications protect the names of products from specific European regions and with specific characteristics, qualities or a reputation, against copying or fraud and certify that they were made to high standards in their “regions of origin”. Existing regulatory framework is regarded as quite effective and provides a clear added value to the European farmers; however, present regimes involve certain limits, such as the low awareness and understanding of GIs by consumers in some EU states, as well as low enforcement. It also highlighted that environmental sustainability and animal welfare could be further integrated.
Started with the Commission proposal for a regulation on the transparency and sustainability in the EU food quality and safety in 2019 (by the end of March 2021 the regulation became applicable in the member states), the EU made important steps towards further modernisation of the EU food safety policy. The new rules intend to improve the transparency of the EU states’ risk assessment regarding food, while covering a wide range of eco-agro-products for consumers.
The households in the EU-27 use a big share of income on food: e.g. among the Baltic States, Estonians are using 23 percent, Latvians 26,5 and Lithuanians 33,7 percent of their income for food consumption. Among “expensive” in this regard are Polish households with about 24 percent, Hungarians with 26,7 and Croatians with 29,5 percent; compared with about 12 percent in the Nordic states.

In March 2022, the European Commission adopted a new proposal aimed at additional system of protection for the geographical indications (GIs) system for wine, spirit drinks and other agricultural products. New measures would increase the use of GIs indications among the EU-27 states to benefit the rural economy and achieving a higher level of legal protection, especially in online trade.
It is expected that in this way the member states will maintain the EU’s high food quality and standards and ensure the European cultural, gastronomic and locally authentic food heritage being preserved and certified both the EU and across the world.
On the occasion of the new GIs draft, Agriculture Commissioner J. Wojciechowski underlined that the geographical indications represented both quality and diversity of the European “culinary heritage”. Besides, the draft is strengthening and harmonizing the agro-sectors’ legal framework, which will boost the production of traditional quality products, as well as benefit rural economies in the states and contribute to preserving local traditions in producing quality agro-food items. Present draft was published in October 2020, followed by a public consultation during January-April 2021, as well as targeted consultations with the member states and relevant organisations in the field.
As part of the EU’s system of intellectual property, names of products registered as GIs are legally protected against imitation and misuse both within the EU-27 and in those non-EU countries with which specific protection agreements were signed; in this way geographical indications represent an additional and multilateral framework for the GIs protection.
Launched in April 2019, the public database “eAmbrosia-the EU Geographical Indications register” now includes geographical indications (GI) for agro-food products, wine and spirit drinks registered and protected in the EU.
Note: To acquire PDO or PGI needs serious efforts: the following “limited examples” among the Baltic States in food sector registered during last 5 years, are showing that the process of entering the GIs’ system is quite complicated. Thus, for example, in Lithuania, only Kaimiškas Jovarų alus and two cheeses – Džiugas Cheese and Liliputas have been accepted; in Latvia: Rucavas baltais sviests, Jāņu siers, Carnikavas nēģi and Latvijas lielie pelēkie zirņi cerials.
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Protected items

The following names of agro-food products and wines are protected in the EU: a) “Protected Designation of Origin”, PDO; and b) “Protected Geographical Indication”, PGI; besides, the spirit-drinks can have a “simple” protection sign, i.e. that of “Geographical Indication”, GI). There are famous geographical indications familiar to people in Europe and around the world, such as Bayerisches Bier, French Champagne, Irish whiskey and Kalamata olives, Italian cheese Parmigiano Reggiano, Polish Vodka, Queso Manchego and Roquefort, to name a few.
Besides, another quality trade mark is also protected in the EU, i.e. “Traditional Specialities Guaranteed”, TSGs; as the names of agricultural products highlighting product’s traditional aspects without being linked to a specific geographical area. Examples of famous TSGs are Bacalhau de Cura Tradicional Portuguesa, Amatriciana tradizionale, Hollandse maatjesharing, and Kriek.
Presently (data for March 2022) there were registered totally 3,458 product names, among them: 1,624 wine names, 1,576 food and agricultural foodstuff names, and 258 spirit drinks.
The latest European study on GIs published in 2020 showed that the sales value of products with a protected name is on average double that for similar products without a certification. This study estimated the yearly sales value of European GI-protected products at €74.76 billion annually, with over one fifth of this amount resulting from exports outside the European Union.

Commission’s proposal
The following measures included in the draft are expected to strengthen and improve existing protection system of geographical indications:
• Shortened and simplified registration procedure: different technical and procedural rules on geographical indications will be merged, resulting in a single simplified GI registration procedure for EU and non-EU applicants. As this harmonisation will result in a shorter time between the submission of the application and the registration, it is expected to increase the attractiveness of the schemes for producers.
• Increased online protection: the new framework will increase the protection of GIs in e-trade and in internet; sales via online platforms and the protection against bad faith registration and use of GIs in the domain name system will be secured.
• More sustainability: as a direct follow-up of the EU’s “Farm-to-Fork strategy”, it will be possible for producers to valorise their actions regarding social, environmental and economic sustainability in their product specifications by using new system of protection. Besides, it will contribute to better protecting natural resources and rural economies, securing local plant varieties and animal breeds, conserving the landscape of the production area and improving animal welfare; it all could appeal to consumers eager to lower their impact on the environment.
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• Empowered producers’ groups: to be effective, the EU states will have to recognise GI producers’ groups at their request; in this way they will be empowered to manage, enforce and develop their GIs, notably by having access to anti-counterfeiting authorities and customs. The proposal also re-conducts the use of the term ‘mountain product’ as an optional quality term.
Source: Commission press release at:

The EU member states remain in charge of the GIs enforcement at national level, while the Commission provides for registration, amendment and cancellation of all registrations.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) will provide technical support in the scrutiny process to help speed up the procedures.
The Commission and EUIPO have been cooperating on geographical indications for the last four years, during which EUIPO contributed to assessing around 1,300 GI applications and created an online database GIview for all protected names, linked to the EU register of geographical indications.
More information in the following Commission’s web-sites: – Commission’s proposal for a regulation on EU geographical indications for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products; – Quality schemes explained; – GIview; – eAmbrosia, the EU geographical indications register.

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