|Above: this diagram represents the present scheme for registration of GIs|
"Guaranteeing quality to consumers and a fair price for farmers are the twin aims of the "Quality Package" adopted today [last Friday] by the European Commission. This Quality Package sets up for the first time a comprehensive policy on certification schemes, value-adding [= price-raising?] terms for agricultural product qualities, and product standards. Until now these have been spread among numerous pieces of legislation. With this Package, the Commission covers all facets of quality, from compliance with minimum standards to highly specific products.
"The strength of European agricultural production lies in its diversity, in the know-how of farmers, and in the soil and territories of production" ["strength in diversity" -- now there's a good rallying cry for the Spanish patent lobby], said Dacian CIOLOŞ, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development today, adding, "Farmers, who are under pressure from the economic downturn, concentration of retailer bargaining power, and global competition, need the tools to better communicate about their products to consumers. This Quality Package is a first step on the path of building on a stronger and more dynamic farming sector which will be followed by other initiatives".
The Quality Package comprises:
* A proposal for a new 'Agricultural Product Quality Schemes Regulation', bringing coherence and clarity to the EU schemes: reinforcing the flagship scheme for protected designations of origin and geographical indications (PDOs and PGIs) [One wonders how much reinforcing the rights themselves need: they're pretty powerful, more powerful than trade marks. What they do need is rewriting in plain, simple language]; overhauling the traditional specialities guaranteed scheme (TSGs), and laying down a new framework for the development of Optional Quality Terms [like pure for Italian chocolate that is, er, pure?] to provide consumers with information they increasingly demand, such as 'free range'' and 'first cold pressing' [Gosh, says Merpel, I've never increasingly demanded that one!].
"This little piggy went to market ..."
* A proposal to streamline adoption of marketing standards by the Commission, including the power to extend place of farming labelling in accordance with the specificity of each agricultural sector.
* New Guidelines on best practices for voluntary certification schemes and on the labelling of products using geographical indications as ingredients [This is an interesting one. Just like computers that used to boast 'Intel Inside', we can now have supermarket sausage rolls boasting the names of prestige products. A voluntary code is good, but what happens when it can't be agreed?].
* The Quality Package is the first step in the overhaul agricultural product quality policy. It is the result of 3 years of extensive consultation and participation of stakeholders [The Kat is embarrassed to say he missed the extensive consultation -- but he hopes his readers took the opportunity to be extensively consulted and offer their views]. It opens the way to a more coherent agricultural product quality policy. For the future, the Commission announced its intention to study further the problems faced by small-scale producers in participating in EU quality schemes as well as by mountain producers to market their products and to propose additional follow-up on the basis of this analysis, if necessary.
The first Commission legislative proposal aims at reinforcing the existing EU quality schemes on geographical indications, traditional specialities and optional quality terms by gathering them into a single legislation [good idea], by introducing a common, simplified and shortened registration procedure for geographical indications and traditional specialities [ditto], clarified provisions as regard the relations between trade marks and geographical indications [Haven't we had the clarification now, following the reference of several cases to the Court of Justice? If 'clarification' means 'amendment', we can be sure of trouble, given the long-term conflicts between (i) GI users and trade mark owners and (ii) the US and the EU over how the respective interests should be dealt with], the role of applicant groups and the definition of a 'traditional speciality guaranteed'.The website of the EU Directorate General dealing with Agriculture and Rural Development carries this page on the Quality Package.
Voluntary guidelines on the labelling of products using geographical indications as ingredients, adopted the same day, give the Commission's interpretation of the current rules in this regard.
Marketing standards contribute to improving the economic conditions for production and marketing of agricultural products, as well as the quality of such products. Current sectoral marketing standards will continue to exist, and may be streamlined in the future, in a more coherent way, through a uniform mechanism by delegation of powers to the Commission in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty ("delegated acts"). This will allow technical norms to be adapted to the realities in the field. For those products where no specific standard exist, baseline requirements will apply. The Commission also proposes to extend sectoral rules (also as "delegated acts") regarding the indication of the place of farming, on the basis of impact assessments, taking account of the specificities of each sector and of consumer requests for transparency.[The sentiments are good, but it's a question of how good the detailed proposals will be in practice]
The fourth element of the Package are the Commission guidelines on the functioning of voluntary certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. They aim at showing best practice for the functioning of the hundreds of voluntary certification schemes that have developed in the last decade (a newly-released inventory study done for the Commission lists more than 400 schemes operating in the EU)".
Legislative proposals on agricultural product policy schemes here
Legislative proposals on marketing standards here
Guidelines on certification schemes here
Guidelines on labelling of products using PDO-PGI ingredients here
Read the citizens' summary here
Class 46 got there on Friday!