venerdì 13 marzo 2009

Debating on the EU Green Paper on Agrofood Quality

The EU Commission has recently published the conclusions from the consultation about some open questions on the different issues related to the EU Green Paper on agricultural product quality policy towards the preparation of the EU final document on quality policy scheduled for next May.

The EU Green Paper has been released, on 15 October 2008, by the EU Commission to open a wide debate on those policies and measures useful to protect and promote quality to agrofood products.

This document shows many important relevant issues both for producers and consumers. Going beyond the issues related to the requisites and common trade standards in the EU for agricultural products and to private certification systems, some parts of the documents are dedicated to the organization of the geographical indications: the "Protected Designation of Origin" (PDO) and the "Protected Geographical Indications" (PGI), the ‘Traditional specialities guaranteed" (TSGs). Other considerations are made for organic productions and to products resulting from remote regions.

These geographical indications as well as those related to organic farming are relevant tools capable to direct consumers' choices: for this reason any intervention in this field may have important impacts in products' differentiation and in the capability to produce and correctly communicate "quality". Too often we receive negative news on the consequences of the information asymmetry on food quality.

In Italy a wide discussion is now open about the extension of these indications to wines because these indications will replace those marks and labels well-known among italian consumers about wine quality (DOC, VQPRD and DOCG): in Italy these high quality wines are differentiated by table wines also classified into "typical geographical indication" table wine and common table wine.

The issue is not simply related to a change of names or a play of words because with the extension of the new indication system many low quality wines will pass directly to the next higher quality level. In addition the present control systems adopted for high quality wines probably will be weaken.

This document is likely to lack in the analysis of the issues related to the Integrated Production which today encompasses different production systems. Also to protect consumers, it could be necessary a co-shared and harmonized system also for this kind of productions.

Another discussion point involves the term "made in". Now it is quite common to find food products labelled with a "made in UE”: this mark surely guarantees safe products but it still remains too generic. For many agrofood products it is not secondary to know its origin from EU single member State: for example for tomatoes it is important to know if they have been cultivated in an open field in a mediterranean country or in a greenhouse in some country of northern Europe.

So, there are many discussion topics: I hope however that the need to harmonize and to achieve uniformity won't generate a wave of an excessive standardization which surely will damage our typical local food products.

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