How TTIP Will Damage Italian PDO Products

Imitation products and fakes weight down on Italy’s possibility to export its products. As the USA don’t want PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) laws to be involved, the delicate matter of Free Trade agreements is being discussed.

Between full-on fake products and the phenomenon known as “Italian sounding” (where products or brands are named to resemble Italian products while not being such) the most recent estimates have counted an earning loss equal to 60 billion euros for our agro industrial business for what concerns missed exportations, which is about twice as much as our current exportation to the rest of the world.
TTIP protest in Brighton - 12/07/2014
The main concern is protecting the uniqueness of our PGI productions and the growth, value and potential of our products with a Registered Designation of Origin, and in order to do so we have to resort to legal action for fakes and frauds (if they are discovered, especially abroad) but also to legislation between countries and complex business agreements, such as the one that is long being discussed between Europe and the USA, the dreaded TTIP (Transatlantic Treaty of International Partnership).
This treaty should create a free exchange zone between UE countries and the United States, and the matter of protecting European geographic designations of origin is one of the chapters included in the document.
The problem lays in the fact that the USA don’t understand and don’t intend to safeguard designations such as “DOP” and “IGP” (Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication) because the only products they value are commercially registered brands, property of private companies.

The USA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has explicitly admitted that the USA main concern is that protecting European designations of origin would damage certain star-spangled productions, now long on the market (such as “Parmesan” or “Wisconsin’s Asiago cheese”). These productions take part in the “Italian sounding” phenomenon, which tricks the consumer into thinking the product is originally Italian when it has nothing to do with the country, both in origin, taste and quality.
The American “Consortium for common food names” is a powerful lobby, for the most part made of 2nd, 3rd generation Italian-Americans producers that are keen on protecting their own businesses. According to European laws, a cheese can be sold as Parmigiano Reggiano or vinegar as Aceto Balsamico di Modena only so long as it has the trademark attesting its origin, else it must be recalled, and this makes the clash with USA dupes all the more radical.

Negotiations will continue, some say it will come to terms by the end of 2016, or with the next President succeeding Obama. Our producers are giving their undivided attention to the matter but, as a part of UE committees, the protection of DOP and IGP trademarks is a priority only for Italy and few more countries.
The best chance to push the negotiations forward would be to press on the matter of openness with the consumers, a matter that the USA cares a lot about. Guaranteeing that fully transparent information is provided to the consumers would allow original productions to be told apart from dupes and fakes.

This is a translated adaptation of this original article

EU Stops USA to Use the Name “Parmesan” For Fake Cheeses

According to The Guardian, during recent trade talks, the European Union stated the desire to ban European names used in the United States for cheese. Parmesan is one of the cheese’s mentioned during the talks. The EU believes that cheese made in the U.S. pale in comparison to the European varieties, hurt the identity of European cheeses, like parmesan, as well as reduce sales.

The EU argument on copied PDO products.

The EU argues that parmesan cheese should only come from Parma, Italy, and the ground cheese sold in green, cylinder containers in the U.S. is not, and should not be labeled carry the name parmesan. The problem for the U.S. is what would you call the block of cheese grated onto your favorite pasta? If it’s not parmesan; then what is it?

Parmesan
Kraft exploits the name Parmesan to market  a product that has nothing to do with Parmigiano ReggianoSource

The U.S. are fighting back.

Needless to say, U.S. dairy producers are fighting the change, claiming it would greatly cut into the $4bn cheese industry, and cause confusion for cheese consumers. The cheese name change would not only affect parmesan, but other popular U.S. cheeses as well, including feta, asiago, Romano and muenster.

Kraft, and other large cheese producers in the U.S. claim that while it was Europeans who originally brought parmesan and other cheeses to the U.S., it was, and is, the U.S. produces that have made these cheese profitable and popular. They also argue that cheese parmesan and other cheese names have always been considered generic names in the U.S.

What this name change comes down to is mass confusion by consumers in America, as well as loss in sales and jobs. Errico Auricchio, president of BelGioioso Cheese Inc in Green Bay Wisconsin suggested, “I can’t believe it’s not parmesan,” as an alternative name in jest.

Food Piracy: The Phenomenon Of The Italian Sounding Food Products

Six millions euros per hour: that’s the amount of the made in Italy turnover loss – as reported by Confagricoltura – caused by the so-called “Italian sounding” whose images, names and colours imitate the Italian products, but actually having nothing to do with the original made in Italy quality, culture and traditions.

Parmesan
Kraft exploits the name Parmesan to market  a product that has nothing to do with Parmigiano ReggianoSource

The phenomenon is well known as much as it is widespread, but it is rather impressive to read its evaluations and extent in black and white. Only EU considered, the match between fake Italian and real Italian sees the latter defeated 2-1: every two Italian products sold, only one is authentic.

“At the end of the year, the loss is over 54 billion euros, an amount greater than the real food piracy worth six billion euros” says Confagricoltura at Cibus Tour, highlighting that the trade of fake and imitations – in other words – all things pretending to be Italian, “are a loose cannon for the Italian alimentary export, this one representing the spearhead of the Italian export with an income of 28 billion euros in 2010.”

“While the food piracy – the real counterfeiting – is an illicit act punishable by law, the huge business of the Italian sounding plays in a grey area that can be fought only through international rules and agreements in order to assure a total transparency about raw materials and manufacturing process employed by traders.” claims the agricultural organization.

A legal action is urgently necessary, especially in those areas of great importance from the commercial point of view like the United States and Canada, where the Italian imitations outstrip the real Made in Italy ten-to-one – in North America there has been a refund of the defraud market quotas worth 24 billion euros, plus 3 billions of real counterfeit. Within the European border, which is supposed to be more protected, the gap is remarkable since, as mentioned above, it reaches 2-1.

The alimentary and agricultural percentage of the total national export amounts to 8% and it should also be considered that in the last few years its importance is strengthening and growing more and more in the total foreign sales volume, as compared with the negative trend of other economic sectors. If the Italian businesses want to remain competitive, they should reattain the grey area occupied by the Italian sounding.

“For this reason – says Confagri –, it is necessary to launch information and promotions campaigns so that foreign consumers can learn how to recognize a fake. Most importantly, at the WTO board the following subjects should be covered: the protection of the indication of geographical origin community system and definition of the standard productive process in social and environmental fields.”