Culinary Year 2010

After a couple of years of financial and food crises, in 2010 the world is moving on to... Plant variation rights, geographical indications and denominations of origins!

In a somewhat soap-opera-like story involving Ethiopia and Starbucks, a feud between the two resulted in a trademark-based agreement in 2007 which, in 2008, led to an Ethiopian strategy for protection of origins marks on their coffee exports. Since January 2010 the Ethiopian industry is intent on making money on these rights, but there seem to have been some questions in November 2010 about where the money went? At the same time, this is the year when I have drank the most espresso's in my entire life.

The European Union on the other hand has made a strategy for allowing genetically modified crops. Some of the diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks a month ago apparently showed the American government had been working closely with some member state governments to increase European acceptance of GMO in Europe. They appear not to have succeeded, except with the Commission of whom the cables mention not. One might wonder why the strategy failed in member states but not with the party one didn't talk to.

A food-related imaginary right the US does not like is geographical indications (for instance Prosciutto ham or Gruyere cheese). On the other side of the Atlantic it is felt that consumers may have to find it complicated to abandon a generic name (Champagne) used to describe a sparkling white wine. So they are claiming consumer protection!

Out of consideration for American consumers, the EU has long failed to accomplish any agreements on GI with the US, and what little has been agreed upon is weak and with a horde of exceptions. The European Commission, France, Italy, Germany and Spain are consistently failing in protecting their cultural heritages the way they wish. This is why it's surprising, to the point of me raising my eyebrows for other than courtesy reasons, that the European Parliament in a resolution signed in November 2010 finds that ACTA is providing a good GI protection. To my best of understanding, the agreement doesn't mention GI but references TRIPs thereby giving it at most the same level of protection TRIPs does. TRIPs protection of GI is not very substantial. Even I appreciate food traditions more than TRIPs and I live off of yoghurt, muesli and bread.

The funniest report on plant variations is provided to us by IP-Tango in a post about the new intellectual vegatable law of Chile. Apparently there is now a better protection against "pirate seeds". Speaking of which, I was just given a very nice link on how to turn your pirate guns into a field of flowers!


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