General description
Partner area

1. Project summary
2. Project objectives
3. Relevance to the objectives of the specific programme and/or thematic priority
4. Potential Impact

1. Project summary

Geographical indications (GIs) for agri-food products are a major asset of the European model of agriculture, acting not only as a tool for protecting consumers' interests and reinforcing confidence in high-quality and typical products, but also as a legal and commercial basis for the development of rural areas, the preservation of cultural heritage as well as the promotion of SMEs. GIs are also a global issue, regulated in international law by the WTO and warranting increasing attention world-wide. However, no comprehensive analytic framework and data set is yet available to assess their effects. The objective of the Strengthening INternational Research on Geographical Indications (SINER-GI) project is to build and share a coherent scientific basis world-wide, regarding economic, legal, institutional and socio-cultural conditions of success of GIs, in order to support their legitimacy in the framework of WTO negotiations.

The project approach builds on a review and typology of products bearing a GI under different institutional and market frames in new member states, candidate states and in Third countries. This database will lead to the formulation of a robust analytical framework and of internationally relevant monitoring indicators. The conceptual model will then be applied to in-depth analysis of selected case-studies in extra-EU countries compared to EU. Long-term scenarios will be assessed; policy recommendations will address improvements needed to maximise GIs contribution as a driver for rural development and consumers' confidence.

We advocate an explicit international approach, since confining the scope of research to EU countries would eventually weaken the project capacity to provide a more comprehensive and internationally grounded scientific foundation of this concept. This scientific work will give effective support for successful EU policy.

Top

 

2. Project objectives

The general objective of the project is to enhance the knowledge and to raise awareness among practitioners, policymakers and academics on the effects of geographical indications (GIs) for agricultural products in order to support their legitimacy in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

Strengthening International Research on Geographical Indications (SINER-GI) project aims at generating a robust theoretical knowledge regarding the transferability of the geographical indication concept itself, rooted on both the scientific experience and skills available within the European Research Area, and a structured sample of international situations mobilised through international partnerships. Theoretical progress regarding GIs is not just an academic matter. It is a key to understanding the conditions of their transferability and to negotiate their international recognition.

The scientific objectives of the 36-month-long project are:

  • to gather an up-to-date systematic knowledge on GIs legal protection systems, socio-economic aspects, institutional arrangements and levels of protection of GIs for agricultural products currently used throughout the world, and to systematise and analyse their pros and cons
  • to understand the effects of the different kinds and levels of protection of GIs on  economic, social, environmental, cultural and ethical dimensions ;
  • to design a common analytical framework to analyse, assess and monitor the effectiveness of GIs, considering the different economic, environmental, and social effects of the most relevant types of institutional frameworks;
  • to design and implement a common monitoring and assessment tool for analysing the conditions of success of GIs, supported by case-studies and practical examples;
  • to provide relevant information and recommendations to policy-makers on whether and how to support GIs through the setting-up a network of researchers, through exchanges of information on research results and meetings.

 

In reaching these objectives, the following steps will be followed:

1.      Develop a theoretical model for monitoring and measuring the impact of GIs and evaluating their conditions of success (WP3) by :

  • identify the diversity of institutional arrangements aiming at protecting GIs throughout the world; the analysis will consider the different levels and kinds of protection in different countries (with special reference to Developing Countries) and for different products; (WP1)
  • identify the effects of GIs with respect to economic growth and income distribution, rural development dynamics, environment impact (biodiversity, pollution, landscape), culture and traditions; the study will consider the different market structures and products, and the institutional frameworks; (WP2)

2.     Develop a new knowledge corpus from an in-depth fieldwork:

  • build a common reference methodology for analysing case-studies using an integrated approach to assess the multifunctional character of different types of GIs; (WP4)
  • perform in-depth analysis of relevant case studies in selected extra-EU countries (with special emphasis on Developing Countries) and comparison to EU case-studies; (WP5)

3.     Elaborate synthesis and scenarios to devise strategies and policy recommendations:

  • compare international case-studies and define a typology of GIs protection effects crossed to different legal and institutional systems; (WP6)
  • identify likely consequences (in terms of competition, trade, economic growth and income distribution, rural development, environment and culture) of the pursuit of current GI protection arrangements in different EU and non-EU countries, and elaborate recommendations for future improvement of GI institutional and policy frameworks, in EU and non-EU countries, in order to enhance opportunities and benefits, whilst decreasing threats (WP7);

4.      Communicate the results and disseminate the information (WP8).

The SINER-GI project also intends to consolidate a world-wide network of research and extension institutions actively studying and debating GIs in EU, emerging and developing countries, building on the SINER-GI partners' experience stemming from the 1997 Parma EAAE Seminar on typical and traditional products (Arfini, Mora, 1998), the 1999 Le Mans Seminar on Socio-economics of origin-labelled products (Sylvander, Barjolle, Arfini, 2000) and the EU-funded DOLPHINS 2001-2003 Concerted action (www.origin-food.org/index.htm) as well as from the 2002 Montpellier international Seminar on Localised agri-food systems world-wide (SYAL, 2003).

Top

 

3. Relevance to the objectives of the specific programme and/or thematic priority

The present project on Geographical Indications world-wide is totally in line with the expected focus of SSP priority 1.1, concerning the "modernisation and sustainability of Europe's agriculture and forestry, including their multifunctional role in order to ensure the sustainable development and promotion of rural areas", which is to "support the development of the European model of agriculture within the globalisation process". By discussing the validity and effectiveness of the GI concept inside and outside Europe, this project will contribute to the three challenges mentioned in the SSP Work Programme for research support to CAP policy:

  • improve food safety and consumer confidence;
  • lay down the scientific foundation of a coherent and sustainable framework for integrated rural development;
  • provide scientific evidence and justification to further develop EU positions in international fora such as WTO.

A comprehensive study on all the implications of the policies concerning GIs in the different fields (marginal area development, market structures, competition and consumer policies, food security, biodiversity, preservation of traditional knowledge, etc.) requires a dedicated research project, as it requires the definition of new methods, indicators and scales of evaluation.

Improve food safety and consumer confidence

Since centuries, GIs are considered as a guarantee for consumers as to the quality standard and the methods of production of the products bearing a GI. This was reinforced with the first legal protection for GIs in Europe. This trust is mainly linked to the nature of a GI localised production system, with collective know-how and common characteristics of the product. Domestic and foreign imitations of GIs do not comply with the traditional and specific production methods, creating unfair competition and misleading the consumer as to his expectations regarding a specific product with an established reputation. As this reputation is linked to a geographical origin rather than an individual trademark, when consumers are misled as to the true origin of the product, they are also misled about the production methods, especially when they associate geographical indications with local, fair and constant customs and practices. In the context of globalisation and trade development, GIs are a stake of great importance as elements of consumers’ information, choice, trust and satisfaction.

In a more recent evolution (middle of the 20th century) of the GI legal system, the characteristics and methods of production (including yields, animal breeds and feeding, processing aspects, etc.) of the GI products have been detailed in mandatory codes of practices, as it is the case for European PDOs and PGIs. This means that those production requirements are made public, are approved by a public procedure and are enforced by public authorities. The consumer trust aspects regarding GIs has to be analysed in relation with the legal frame in different countries, the differences between GIs without and with codes of practices, and, amongst the later, between the different kinds or levels of requirements in the codes of practices.

Lay down the scientific foundation of a coherent and sustainable framework for integrated rural development

The recent evolution of EU CAP tends to put quality rather than quantity forward, and to require more and more positive externalities to agricultural activities in relation with the environment. These environmental concerns favour the development of related activities such as tourism.

GI products are a basis on which it is possible to create dynamics in rural activities, including environmental concerns and tourism, through collective processes aiming at promoting a region as a whole. But the co-ordination of producers, the collective management of quality, the institutional organisation of the supply chain are, in most cases, a consequence of the granting of legal protection to a GI, or may even be a pre-requisite for the recognition of that legal protection. Legal protection for GIs, either through PDO-PGI or collective/certification trademarks, provides a secure ground on which it becomes possible to build institutions (e. g. inter-professional bodies) and policies (rural development, rural tourism, promotion, etc.). All these efforts are threatened inside and outside the EU, by operators who copy original GIs products and usurp or misuse their reputation.

Provide scientific evidence and justification to further develop EU positions in international fora such as WTO

GIs are a key topic in trade negotiations, considering both their global economic importance and their role for local systems of production which are often those of marginal areas. A document prepared by UE/ DG Trade before the 2003 WTO Cancun negotiations gives important cues to the relevance of this topic for the EU: "The European Communities have registered some 4800 geographical indications (4200 for wines and spirits; 600 for other products). For example, France’s 593 GIs (466 for wines and spirits and 127 other products) generate 19 billion euro of value (16 billion wines & spirits and 3 billion other products) and constitute the lifeline of 138 000 agricultural outfits. Similarly, Italy’s 420 GIs (300 for wines & spirits and 120 on other products) generate a value of 12 billion euro (5 billion euro for wines & spirits and 7 billion for other products) and give employment to more than 300.000 citizens. In Spain, 123 GI products generate some 3.5 billion euro of income (2.8 billion for wines and spirits and 0.7 billion euro for other products)" (UE/ DG Trade, 2003).

The international protection of GIs is a subject of negotiations under the TRIPS Agreement, in relation with other agricultural concerns (even if GIs do not apply only on agri-food products). The two main chapters of debates are first, the establishment of a multilateral register of protected GIs for wines and spirits, and secondly, the extension of the protection now granted to wines and spirits to all GIs. For both these topics, EU negotiators should have at their disposal a more comprehensive scientific analysis on the pros and cons of the different types of legal registers, the compatibility between national and international legal systems, the interest of a better protection for all GIs rather than only for wines and spirits; such an analysis, in order to be an effective political support, must not be limited to purely legal aspects and reasoning, but include all the aspects which have been previously mentioned: socio-economic realities, environment, culture, traditional heritage, etc.

The same apply to a purely economic approach. Convincing developing countries, and even developed countries, to act for a better protection of GIs (at national and international levels) obviously requires that strong scientific arguments be presented, and not only on a global basis such as the value of exports from EU countries, but also in relation with the sustainability of local systems of production, social and environmental impacts, etc. . In the WTO TRIPS Council debates, members opposed to the extension of protection and developing countries interested in GIs as a legal tool are asking for more precise elements, analysis and evidences on the developed GI systems and the potential application in developing countries.

The aim of the SINER-GI project is to provide a comprehensive view of all the types of GIs, and in-depth case studies demonstrating what the legal, social, economical and organisational conditions of success are.

Our project will thus highlight the fact that GIs are not only an economic reality, but also a policy tool that can affect various concerns, such as the protection of biodiversity, biological resources and traditional knowledge, as well as rural development and food quality.

For these expected effects to develop, it is necessary that GI be applied to a more wide range of products (GIs for wines and spirits representing 71% of the registered Appellations of Origin under the Lisbon Agreement administered by WIPO and a greater number of countries (EU, including new member states, represent 85% of the GIs of the same register). 

The relevance of this research project is enhanced by its following characteristics:

  • Timeliness: Membership of WTO implies that member countries provide a minimum legal protection for Intellectual Property Rights in general and for Geographical Indications in particular. National laws must conform to the TRIPS agreement by 2000 for developed and transition countries, and by 2006 for less advanced countries. The period 2004-2006 is thus strategic for the implementation of this collaborative research, as many national legal frameworks are currently being adapted (GI mention in IPR law, and, not less important, GIs implementation decrees).
  • Equity: Products other than wines and spirits, such as tea, rice, cheese, coffee (or non-agricultural crafts), which are of particular interest for developing countries, are overtly discriminated under WTO rules. Negotiations regarding GIs have been and keep being among the most difficult within the TRIPS Council. EU countries have particularly sought recognition of PDO wines and spirits, while US were favourable to maintaining only the trademark system. This is why the TRIPS Agreement foresees a basic protection for all GIs products (agri-food or crafts) (Article 22), and an additional protection for wines and spirits (Article 23).
  • Common standpoints: for developing countries, what is at stake obviously is the ability of the international agreements to be based on common standpoints concerning the GIs. Such an evolution might allow to handle the GIs from all countries on the same basis. The solution given to the GI debate at WTO will act as a test as to the possible positive effects, for these countries, of the new globalisation rules, especially the controversial rules of IPR. A group of developing countries (including India, Pakistan, Kenya, Sri Lanka) claims that the additional protection granted to wine and spirits be also applied to other products. Other (wine-producing) countries such as Chile and Argentina consider that this extension of additional protection would imply costly and bureaucratic procedures. The EU envisages a simple, cost-effective system of world-wide registration for GIs so that farmers and SMEs can protect their GIs, even if they can not afford a high investment.

In any case, it is through concrete applications to protect their own GI products that developing countries may, from now until 2006, go further in the appropriation of the topic and the formulation of adapted national legal frameworks. Provisory lists of GIs candidate products circulated within the TRIPS Council show the predominance of agricultural and agri-food products (particularly coffee and cocoa).

Top

4. Potential Impact

4.1Contributions to standards

The project is going to provide information, tools and in depth analysis about the concept of Geographical Indications in the multilateral negotiation process which is taking place at this level. Those insights are based upon technical conditions of productions, juridical framework on Intellectual property rights, social networks, supply chains organisation towards competition features and rules, consumers’ and citizens’ expectations and attitudes towards GIs. This work is going to contribute to a scientific basis for a legitimate and internationally accepted definition of GI. This definition and the underlying basis can be used to develop standards in the future, in the framework of WTO, of the Codex alimentarius as well as at the national regulations’ level.

4.2. Contribution to policy developments

The project intends to highlight the central role that GI products can play in:

  • the viability of farms and food processing enterprises,
  • the fight against poverty in marginal areas,
  • the preservation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge systems,
  • as well as in fairness of trade issues.

 

From an operational point of view :

  • With the building of a set of arguments that show the impacts of GI products on economic aspects (producers incomes, rural development, consumers…), social aspects (employment, rural organisations…), the environment, and on production and processing techniques concerning the quality of products, the European position in defence of GI product protection (existing or to be established) will carry more conviction power.
  • By studying and understanding the various contexts (institutional framework, markets, products…) of other (non-European) countries in which GI products can develop, the project will contribute to reinforcing the European position, by taking better into consideration the situations of their negotiating partners.
  • The project will show the opportunities and threats for using GI products as agricultural and rural or even economic development policy instruments.

European cooperation in the defined field of work will be reinforced, based on these operational results, on the partnership built within the project as well as on the exchanges of information and the confrontation of results with other partners in the European scientific community (for example the DOLPHINS and SUS-CHAIN scientific networks, new partners from candidate countries, etc.).

 

Those impacts may be actually observed in the following fields :

  • Evolution of the European regulation in the framework of the GIs and in any connected fields as well (private brands, certification, labelling, etc.
  • Evolution of the implementation tools used in the framework of the new CAP, especially in the framework of the Luxembourg agreement which is aimed to support "participating in quality insurance and certification schemes recognised by the member states or the EU including the PDOs, PGIs and Organic Farming"
  • Evolution of the bilateral agreements between EU and third countries touching GIs and connected fields
  • Strengthening of the European negotiation position in the WTO discussions

The impact may concern diverse fields as assessments methods, generation of indicators, policy evaluations or elaboration of relevant arguments.

 

Lastly, the composition of the consortium will have a positive impact on the European Research Area in the field of GI and rural development, strengthening research infrastructures in new member states (contributing case studies WP5).

 

4.3. Related communication strategy

It may occur that particular conditions of productions raise international controversies, but in most cases, those techniques are not specific to GIs. The case of raw milk cheese can be mentioned, as some cheeses recognised or promoted as GIs may be produced from raw milk.  As many non GIs cheeses may also be produced on this way and many GIs cheeses are not, this question is not specific to the SINERGI project and is not considered to belong to the investigation field.

On the other hand, if the GIs policy wouldn’t be reinforced at the European level as well as at the international one, the most severe risk would be to weaken the threatened types of agricultures, production systems and territories which GIs are supposed to support.  This risk means a possible increasing of unemployment, desertification, etc. in several European rural regions.

Geographical indications' (GIs) for agri-food products are a major asset of the European model of agriculture, acting not only as a tool for protecting consumers interests and reinforcing confidence in high-quality and typical products, but also as a legal and commercial basis for the development of rural areas, the preservation of cultural heritage as well as the promotion of SMEs. GIs are also a global issue, regulated in international law by the WTO and warranting increasing attention world-wide. However, no comprehensive analytic framework and data set is yet available to assess their effects. The objective of the Strengthening INternational Research on Geographical Indications (SINER-GI) project is to build and share a coherent scientific basis world-wide, regarding economic, legal, institutional and socio-cultural conditions of success of GIs, in order to support their legitimacy in the framework of WTO negotiations.

The project approach builds on a review and typology of products bearing a GI under different institutional and market frames in new member states, candidate states and in Third countries. This database will lead to the formulation of a robust analytical framework and of internationally relevant monitoring indicators. The conceptual model will then be applied to in-depth analysis of selected case-studies in extra-EU countries compared to EU. Long-term scenarios will be assessed; policy recommendations will address improvements needed to maximise GIs contribution as a driver for rural development and consumers confidence.

We advocate an explicit international approach, since confining the scope of research to EU countries would eventually weaken the project capacity to provide a more comprehensive and internationally grounded scientific foundation of this concept.

Top