French Minister of Agriculture, Stephane Le Foll, praised the historic step taken on May 21st in Geneva for the international protection of Geographical Indications. The 28 member states of the Lisbon Agreement decided by unanimity to extend the current international protection system of Protected Designations of Origin (PDO- also referred to as appellation d’origine controlée in French) to include Protected Geographic Indications (PGIs).
Before continuing, it is important to recall the difference between these two denominations, PDO and PGI, as well as the role the Lisbon Agreement plays in their protection:
The term PDO, an “appellation d’origine contrôlée”, (“Protected Designation of Origin”) refers to foodstuffs that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area using recognized know-how (such as Comte Cheese). The quality or characteristics of a product protected as an appellation of origin must result exclusively or essentially from its geographical origin. A PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) denotes a connection with the land or “terroir” in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation (such as Jambon de Bayonne – Bayonne Ham; the processing stage can only be held in the region of Bayonne where there is a processing know how from more than a century, but the pork meat can originate from outside of Bayonne region). The connection between the products and the “terroir” is therefore stronger for PDOs. In other words, the basic difference between Protected Geographical Indications) and appellations of origin PDO, for example) is that the link with the place of origin must be stronger in the case of an appellation of origin. The Lisbon Agreement was adopted in 1958, implemented in 1966 and is currently administrated by the World Intellectual Propriety Organization (WIPO). This agreement aims to create international rules to protect the PDOs among member states.
Thanks to this new extension of the Lisbon Agreement, GIs will receive a higher level of protection among the member states, as is currently the case for PDOs. Moreover, the countries who have PGIs, but no PDOs, will henceforth be able to obtain recognition for their products thanks to this this updated Lisbon Agreement, which will lead to improved visibility for these products – and of Geographic Indications – around the world.
France has always fought for the protection of quality products linked with specific territories. Geographical Indications are an important sign of quality for consumers and they create additional financial security for their producers. They contribute to the dynamism of rural areas by promoting local products, introducing them to global trade and even by attracting agricultural tourism to production sites, among other benefits.