Details of 'Geographical Indication' of Iranian agricultural products

TEHRAN, Feb. 29 (MNA) – Implementation of the Geographical Indication (GI) project, recently launched in cooperation with FAO in Iran, will lead to the development of agricultural tourism related to the GI.

To know more about the issue, we reached to Stephane Passeri, International Geographical Indications (GI) Consultant and Team Leader at FAO Regional Office for Asia-Pacific. 

Following is the text of our interview with him:

What is the definition of Geographical Indications (GI)? What are the main elements/components of the GI?

The International definition of Geographical Indications could be summarised through the reading of the article 22 or the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of the WTO quoting, "Geographical indications are indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin."

The name of the GI is associated with a product from a specific origin which is a result of joint influence from the local environment and local know-how of local producers often accumulated through time and from generation to generation giving to the product and its name of origin a certain reputation. The product will, therefore, be called by this geographical name. GI protects this name and the specific characteristics attached to the GI product.

What functions are expected from GI registration/protection? 

GI is an intellectual Property Right, as Trademark or Patent are. It means the GI is legally protected in the country(ies) it is registered in. People using the GI name without complying to the GI specifications and rules, to which the GI name applies to, therefore infringe the Law and can be prosecuted> GI protection is allowing to protect GI producers from misuse of the GI name but also consumers which could be misled by the wrongful use of a GI name for another type of product from a different origin or with different characteristics.  

How GI can help the indigenous/local farmers and entrepreneurs? How it can financially benefit them?  

For GI to be protected they need to justify their “uniqueness” based on the strong and often secular link between the GI products and its origin. This link often emphasized local/indigenous tradition and know-how as well as specific eco-system.  GI also is collectively owned by the local GI producers. It cannot be own only by one company/individual and it cannot be delocalized or transferable to other localisations. Then once the GI is protected, indigenous communities, local producers remain in control and at the center of  GI and can sustainably build the GI valorization through GI products commercialization locally or internationally, but also develop eco-tourism / agro-tourism activities associated to the GI identifying to the eyes of the consumers and tourists the area of production and local traditions and environment attached to it.   

How GI can ensure the indigenous/local farmers and entrepreneurs that their privileges would not be snapped/wasted by other (domestic or foreign) actors? 

Only GI local producers can file collectively for GI protection. A GI association (non for profit) is often created for this purpose to guarantee to inclusiveness of such a process. All producers/operators fulfilling GI specifications should be able to use the GI. National Law but also foreign countries' laws also protecting GI will also verify the collective ownership of the GI and its rightful protection.

How GI can contribute to sustainable livelihoods for the farmers? 

GI created added-value to traditional products as it guarantees the maintenance a GI product’s unique characteristics,  carefully controlled and monitored through internal control procedures (among the Producers collective group/association), but also through compulsory third party control/certification procedures which provide thrust and transparency to both producers, but more importantly consumers. This easily justifies the GI products to obtain a quality attached premium price on the markets.  

How can you explain the scope of current and expected future market demands for GI tagged products?  

GI market will naturally expend as it is an answer to the demand of more educated, quality-conscious consumers, often associated with the world booming middle/upper classes which want much more information on products they buy and eat and ready to pay a premium for it. GI also provide additional attractiveness in term of eco/agro tourism both intranational tourism and foreign tourism as GI strong links with specific/unique environments and local culture/wisdom is also increasingly attractive.  

How GI can contribute to the preservation of the natural environment and global biodiversity? 

GIs and their attached market premium and uniqueness, provide incentives to producers in maintaining specific/ native varieties or species, local traditional practices which have adapted to the local environment, perhaps less productive but having other qualities that the GI help to promote to an increasing number of biodiversity conscient consumers.

How GI could play an effective role in preserving local cultures? 

GI products play often a central role among the local population, part of local culture and history but also contributing to the local economy and employment. It is therefore automatically contributing to the preservation of local/secular culture and heritage. 

What are the main criteria for GI registration?  

A Gi name can be registered if it can be demonstrated that the GI products have unique characteristics associated with its origin. This could be through the interaction of unique local natural factors ( local eco-system with specific biodiversity, climate, etc.), the human factor ( local know-how, tradition) and through the demonstration of history and reputation currently associated with the GI name.  

How long would it take to complete a GI registration procedure for a specific product nationally? 

It will mostly depend on the registration system and experience in each country but on average 2 years. 

It will depend on the experience of the country in examining GI applications for registration as well as resources allocated for the competent public administration to do so, in particular in terms of human resources. In general, it should take around 2 years for a GI National application to be completed from A to Z  (organization of the GI group, collection of relevant information to draft the GI book of specifications and prepare for relevant control plan and mechanism to guarantee that the GI is properly commercialized in respect of its Specifications).    

Are there any specific primary requirements to initiate a GI registration procedure? 

Proper legislation should be in place. This legislation should identify;

- who can apply for GI registration: it should be a group which represent the GI producers and value-chain on an inclusive way ( all producers able to comply with the GI Specifications and agreeing to be submitted to control procedure should be able to be a member of this group and use the GI). 

- The competent authority national, public body officially managing the national GI system ( examination of GI application, registration of national and foreign GI, GI registry, GI control,etc.) 

What are your recommendations for authorities and stakeholders in this regard? 

Really consider sufficient time to consult with the GI value-chain from producers, operators to the trader to draft the GI specifications to obtain understanding and ownership on the GI concept and road map for each GI sustainable development. Authorities should play an important contribution in facilitating the process but not register GI on their behalf as GI belongs to the producers.  

How widespread is GI recognized globally? 

GI is a global IP, although traditionally associated with the GI instrument birthplace, Europe. Nowadays Asia is about to become the region of the world with the highest number of protection GIs   

Are there any bodies/modalities guaranteeing and protecting the designated GIs (nationally or internationally)? 

National law is the first pre-requisite. Iranian GI cannot be protected abroad if there are not first properly protected nationally. Then registration/protection is possible in foreign countries either through direct application, exchange of GI lists by countries or through the use of international registry such as trough the WIPO Lisbon Agreement for which Iran is a member but only in other countries members of such Agreement. 

Could you please bring some tangible examples of successful GI in the region? And the benefits that have been generated through this practice? 

GI registration is voluntary. It means that no one is obliged to apply for GI registration or, once registered, not able to cancel this registration if it is not seen as relevant. The number of Gi registered worldwide has exploded during the last decade, and it is interesting to note that none or nearly none have been canceled.  It demonstrates by itself their momentum. Also, even the poorest countries have witnessed GI success. Cambodia, for example, has seen in less than 10 years its “Kampot Pepper” GI becoming one of the most famous pepper in the world with its price at farm gate moving from below 4 Euro a kilo to over 15 Euron with the retail price exceeding 100 Euro /kg. The city of Kampot has also gained fame and attracted large eco-agro tourism attractiveness

How interested did you find the Iranian stakeholders in pursuing the implementation of the GI system in the country? 

Iranian stake-holders are genuinely interested but the national GI strategy needs to be refined to focus first on the strengthening of Iranian GI nationally (strengthening of each GI value-chain, internal and external control mechanism, creation of a national GI label for Iranian GI and promotion campaigns). This in itself will naturally facilitate the sustainable protection and valorization of Iranian GI  in all relevant markets (nationally and abroad). The focus should be on improving inter-ministerial cooperation, increase public-private coordination and through necessary consultations with GI value-chain representatives through the development of GI associations to obtain a better understanding of the GI concept and more importantly better ownership of  GI benefits but also rules by producers/operators/traders. 

How do you assess the possible potentials of Iran in terms of GIs? 

The potential is enormous for Iran. A lot of products could easily claim GI protection and valorization considering the country’s biodiversity, traditions/know-how, and heritage.  But focus should not be on registering the highest number of GI names nationally or internationally alone but for these GI  products and their value-chain to benefit really from these registrations by playing a more active role in the process and for the GI specifications to together fulfill GI requirements but also fit with consumers demand, including in term of strong and sound GI control/certification systems. Those will allow for proper recognition of Iranian GI by both producers and consumers and allow Iranian products to obtain the recognition, protection, and valorization they deserve.

How can FAO help the country in this regard?  

Based on its experience in providing technical assistance and advice to numerous countries in the region, FAO stand ready to work on the above matters with Iranian authorities and stake-holders to strengthen the GI national system, provide increased opportunity and revenues to farmers and local communities and promote sustainable development, biodiversity and communities development through the strengthening of the national GI systems and products.

MNA/4863158

News Code 156123

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