FAO promotes geographical indications for agrifood systems protection
©EBRD/FAO Dermot Doorly
Budapest – In countries of Europe and Central Asia, as well as globally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) furthers the identification and registration of new geographical indications (GI) in the food and agriculture sector, and works to improve current geographical indications schemes to make them simpler and more effective.
Geographical indications are names used to identify and commercialize agricultural products as well as other traditionally made goods such as crafts, that are deeply rooted in a specific geographical environment. The products’ unique qualities, characteristics and reputation are linked to their geographical origin by attributes of climate, soil composition, tradition, biodiversity, as well as other natural and human factors. Their production and trade can help protect rural economies and preserve local, traditional knowledge.
According to data from oriGIn, over 40 percent of the geographical indications worldwide are from Europe.
A successful geographical indications scheme requires a collective approach among producers and other relevant actors, a robust system of protection and enforcement, and appropriate controls that should ensure the promise made to consumers is respected and the product’s authenticity guaranteed. Farmers, food processors and retailers, and decision-makers must collaborate and cooperate to create and maintain a GI system that’s economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
As part of the process to streamline GI, the Third regional consultation on geographical indications was co-organized by FAO and the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (oriGIn), and its Proceedings of the Third regional consultation on geographical indications in Europe and Central Asia were jointly published. The report summarizes relevant studies from selected countries of Europe and Central Asia, discusses on the role of FAO and other development partners, and presents the European Union’s approach.
The analysis of the country studies focuses on the national GI regulatory frameworks (definitions, protection, groups, and controls), sector potential (including sustainability), and obstacles to its development, as well as the market situation (consumer perception, promotional activities, commercialization, distribution).
“The country studies confirmed the need to highlight the potential role of geographical indications in helping the transition to more sustainable agriculture, and how GI producers can benefit from more efficient sustainability elements in their production practices,” commented Dmitry Zvyagintsev, FAO Policy Officer. “Another key area with room for improvement is raising consumer awareness and understanding of the geographical indications.”
Consumers often are not aware of geographical indications schemes and their benefits, and the proliferation of labels can create confusion that may lead purchasers to have uncertainty about, or a lack of confidence in, the unique qualities of GI products.
With an elevated awareness of the GI systems among farmers, food producers, and decision-makers, geographical indication schemes can reach their potential in preserving the environment, have a strong cultural and social impact, and contribute to regional development, the report reveals.
In line with this, the over 100 participants of the Third regional consultation on geographical indications recommended that FAO disseminate information and good practices on sustainable geographical indication systems that can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the coming weeks, FAO will support several GI awareness-raising activities and national conferences this year, involving partners and relevant actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Türkiye, and Tajikistan. The events will culminate with the Fourth regional consultation on geographical indications for Europe and Central Asia, to be held in virtual mode on 11 December. Co-organized by oriGIn and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, the consultation will focus on sustainability, governance and the role of producer groups.