Protecting EU geographical indications and traditional specialities from counterfeiting also helps safeguard food quality, argue MEPs, who believe legislation is needed in this area.
Plans for an EU food quality policy, intended to add value to the economies of Europe's regions, are set out in a resolution drafted by Giancarlo Scottà (EFD, IT) and approved by Parliament as a whole on 25 March. This resolution responds to a Commission consultation paper on EU food quality policy and forms part of a wider debate in Parliament on the future aims of the Common Agricultural Policy.
In a debate on 24 March, Mr Scottà said: "Putting emphasis on food quality policy represents one of the responses to globalising markets" and "a development opportunity for many disadvantaged areas."
Agriculture Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, said he would put forward legislative proposals for an EU quality policy by the end of this year. "I am going to force myself to take into consideration your ideas and suggestions", when drafting the new rules, he told MEPs.
Protecting geographical indications: more power to rights owners
MEPs agreed on the need to keep the current system of geographical indications (GIs), and in particular its two main tools: the protected designation of origin (PDO), for agricultural products entirely produced within a given geographical area, and the protected geographical indication (PGI), for products closely linked to a geographical area, where at least one stage of production takes place.
To remedy shortcomings of this system, such as its failure to prevent usurpation of GIs within and beyond the EU, Parliament proposes amending existing legislation to give consortia of GI owners a role in managing PDO and PGI products.
A third system of labelling available in the EU is the 'traditional guaranteed speciality' (TGS), which stresses the product's traditional composition or means of production.
A binding multilateral register of all GI products worldwide, to be agreed at the WTO (under TRIPS Article 23), is essential to fight usurpation and counterfeiting, says the resolution. MEPs also call on the Commission to provide GI bodies with financial and technical support to tackle these problems.
'Country of origin' on food labels (COOL)
To better inform consumers, the country of origin, in the case of fresh products, should be well indicated to ensure full traceability and transparency. This should be done without creating any excessive costs and by investigating alternatives to traditional labelling, such as bar codes or web sites. Supplementary information should be made voluntary, to avoid overloading labels and thus confusing consumers, says the approved text.
The Commission is also asked to study various options for introducing new information tools, including new EU quality logo, which should be made available exclusively to agricultural products resulting entirely from production in the EU.
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