THE board of FEPALE, the Pan-American Dairy Federation (Federacion Panamericana de Lecheria), passed a resolution in opposition to the European Union's increasing efforts to restrict the use of common food names. The resolution was passed Nov. 21 during the group's annual meeting in Panama City, Panama.
The assembly issued a resolution on the use of generic names expressing full rights to countries of the Americas to use such names as they were brought from Europe by the immigrants who settled in these regions. FEPALE represents the vast majority of countries throughout the Americas.
The EU has been working aggressively within its trade agreements in Latin America and other nations to restrict the use of food names, including such common cheese names as parmesan, asiago, gorgonzola and feta. Such restrictions could have enormous negative impacts on commerce, effectively blocking the entry of products from local producers and trading partners into an established food category, the group warned.
"This attempt by the EU to appropriate names of cheeses that have become of common use and the public domain in our countries by several centuries is a clear and obvious intent of limiting free and healthy competition," FEPALE said in a statement.
Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), added that the resolution shows that countries are beginning to catch on to what the EU is doing and to cry foul.
"The EU's attempts to 'own' common names are unfair, unreasonable and untenable," Castaneda said. "Many nations throughout the Americas have small and medium producers, as well as notable cheese-making operations, that have developed international stature for their products over generations. Unfortunately, the EU government is attempting to impose restrictions negatively impacting their livelihood."
The EU now routinely includes the topic of geographical indications in its trade negotiations with a myriad of countries.
While CCFN said it agrees with the EU that there is a place for the protection of distinctive foods from distinct regions, such as Napa Valley wines from California or Camembert de Normandie cheese from France, it said the EU has pushed the bounds of geographical indication protections to include generic names and force countries to accept their demands.
"We applaud FEPALE for taking a stand on this issue and ask individual countries in the Americas to do the same," Castaneda said.
CCFN's goal is to work with leaders worldwide in agriculture, trade and intellectual property rights and to foster the adoption of high standards and model geographical indication guidelines throughout the world.