Global food fight heats up over delicacy naming rights

Friday, August 29, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union issued a list Thursday of 41 wines, cheeses and other products it wants protected by a global trade pact, accusing other countries of abusing the names of delicacies.

Under the proposal -- which is resisted by the United States, Canada and others -- products labeled as Champagne, Parma ham, Roquefort cheese or any of the other names on the list will have to come from their traditional European regions.

"Abuses in third countries undermine the reputation of EU products and create confusion for consumers," said the EU's Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. "We want this to cease for the most usurped products."

In world trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, next month, the EU wants to create a global register of geographically defined products that would ban producers outside the traditional region from using such names.

Its 41-product list unveiled Thursday includes Beaujolais, Chianti, Madeira and other wines; Feta, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and other cheeses; and Parma ham and Mortadella sausages. In some countries, these names are claimed to be generic or are registered as trademarks by local producers.

"This is a short list of 41 products whose names are being abused and parroted," said an EU spokesman.

He added the EU planned to seek protection at a later stage for 600 more "regional quality products." On top of that, it awaits submissions of products peculiar to Cyprus, Malta and eight East European nations that will join the EU next May.

The EU is not alone. India is keen to protect Darjeeling tea, Sri Lanka its Ceylon tea, Guate-mala its Antigua coffee and Switzerland its Etivaz cheese.

The EU has run into opposition from the United States and some Latin America nations who argue that in many cases, products such as Sherry or Parmesan cheese were introduced by European immigrants and have been made in their new countries for generations.

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