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Geographical Indications

Geographical Indications
The World Trade Centre Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which came into effect on 1 January 1995, contains specific provisions that govern food geographical indications. Geographical Indications are defined in Article 22 of the World Trade Organization TRIPS agreement as “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 characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin". Specifically, Geographical Indications are signs used on goods, agricultural and non-agricultural, to identify origin, quality, characteristics and reputation of a product and they commonly include the name of the place or origin in order to identify that product as originating in a particular region or locality of a country. As certain qualities of agricultural products are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil, or may be made according to traditional methods that link the product to its geographical origin, geographical indications are increasingly being recognized as valuable marketing tools in the global economy, serving as source identifiers and guarantees of quality. Under the TRIPS Agreement, member states must provide protection to those products that are identified as geographic indications. This means that other products cannot purposely mislead consumers into believing that the product originated from a region from which it did not. 

The names and qualities of agricultural products and food stuffs are promoted and protected by the European Union by two schemes:


  • Protected designation origin (PDO) – covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognized know-how
  • Protected geographical indication (PGI) – covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area

In the south side of the Mediterranean, countries also developed legislation on GIs and FAO supported such development in view to contributing to rural development. Morocco has established a comprehensive legislation to protect GI and support their development as a tool for rural development in the framework of their agricultural policy “Plan Maroc Vert”. Long valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and medicinal properties, argan oil (a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Morocco), was registered as a PGI under the Moroccan law in January 2010. It was the first product in Africa to receive a geographical indication. FAO has also supported the implementation of the GI law in Tunisia. Now, Tunisia registered three GIs - pomegrenates of Gabes , apples of Sbiba and olive oil of Monastir - and is also working to establish geographical indications for other products - Maltaise orange, fig of Djebba, Deglet Ennour (high-quality dates).  More recently, a FAO regional project made a point on the potentials of GI products in Morocco and Tunisia. 

For more information on FAO methodologies and field projects on GIs, you can visit: http://www.foodquality-origin.org/technical-assistance/en/ or contact 
Emilie Vandecandelaere at Emilie.Vandecandelaere@fao.org
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