Commission urges UK to recognise geographical indications post-Brexit

©CharlieAJA/iStock

The European Commission has called on the UK to guarantee the protected status of food products that have been registered with the EU’s geographical indications (GIs) after Brexit.

In a position paper dealing with the issue of intellectual property rights including GIs, the EU Task Force negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union called on the UK to uphold the scheme.

“The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union will create uncertainty for the UK and EU27 stakeholders alike in relation to the scope of protection in the United Kingdom of certain intellectual property rights,” the Commission said.

The EC wants the UK to recognise existing and “supplementary” protections. All the EU’s registered GIs must be given “automatic recognition” in the UK after Brexit, the Task Force argued.

“In the specific case of protected geographical indications… the United Kingdom [should] put in place… domestic legislation providing for their continued protection. Such protection should be comparable to that provided by Union law,” the Commission stated.

Around 1,400 foods – as well as wines, spirits and other agricultural products – are currently protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PDI) and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed labels.

Under the EU Regulation No 1151/2012, introduced in 1992, only products originating in a particular region are allowed to be identified as such in commerce. For example, feta cheese or Greek yoghurt must be made in Greece, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano have to be made in Italy, cheddar cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies must be made in the UK and champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France. The regulation spans various product categories, including of wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, seafood, olives, olive oils, beers, balsamic vinegar, regional bread, fruits, raw meat and vegetables.

In combination, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece account for 70% of the total number of registered GIs.

The European Commission is working to extend its GI system internationally through bilateral trade agreements with non-EU countries. The scheme aims to tackle food fraud, ensure quality, protect regional and traditional food industries and support a price premium for regional produce. 

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