Archeology attests it: the first signs establishing a link between a product and its geographical origin date back at least to Antiquity. We already affixed on the amphorae used to transport wine or olive oil the name indicating their origin.
But it is in France that will be born, at the beginning of the XXe century, first in the wine sector, the legal notion of “designation of origin”. This certifies that a product meets precise specifications, giving it specific qualities according to a particular terroir and know-how. In return, this label protects a product from more or less fraudulent imitations.
The concept will go beyond national borders after a hard battle within the European Union. In 1992, a community regulation instituted the protected designation of origin (PDO) and the protected geographical indication (PGI) as signs of quality recognized throughout the single market. Three years later, an intellectual property agreement within the World Trade Organization was the real trigger for internationalization.
“Twenty-five years later, it is spectacular to see to what extent this legal framework has extended to countries of the South, emerging or developing”, underlines Delphine Marie-Vivien, researcher at the Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD). India, for example, has developed national legislation on Geographical Indications (GIs) which has enabled the registration to date of more than 370 products, including Darjeeling, the emblematic black tea of West Bengal, or basmati rice, that she is arguing with Pakistan.
Because the value of a geographical indication depends above all on its recognition by commercial partners. Thus in 2006, Colombia was one of the first third countries to ask Brussels to recognize its coffee as a PGI. Since then, applications have multiplied from Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, Morocco and China. “So far, between registrations on a case-by-case basis and those granted via bilateral agreements, the Union has recognized as PDO or IGP nearly 1,800 foreign products”, specifies Delphine Marie-Vivien.
A win-win system, this labeling offers a guarantee of quality to European consumers while ensuring local producers a better income. “Beyond the price, the PDO or the IGP oblige the actors of a sector to structure themselves vis-a-vis the market to secure their production”, emphasizes the specialist.
This model is beginning to gain traction among wine growers and arborists in the United States, this New World long reluctant to protect the ancestral agricultural traditions of the Old.