The Manuka honey fight is one we have to have

The current row about the certification of Manuka honey, and whether it is a distinctly New Zealand product, is just the latest dispute involving Geographical Indications (GIs). These are markers that products have special qualities due to their origins in a specific region, like Champagne.

There is a debate as to whether a registered GI system for food should be adopted in Australia. It might be good for our farmers – to more effectively protect King Island Beef, Bangalow pork or Tasmanian lobster against low quality imitations. But would it be in the best interest of Australian producers and consumers to simply capitulate to demands about New Zealand Manuka, or about GIs in general?

Why GIs?

Registering a GI can stop imitators riding on the coattails of local producers who have worked hard to build the reputation of their typical local product, be it cheese, processed meat or quality fruit.

To date, Australia has not copied the European GI system, other than for wine. In Europe, “Roquefort”, “Kalamata” and “Feta” and many other terms can never be used for products from other regions, or that do not follow detailed specifications.

Australia has no laws, for instance, that specify Mareeba Mangoes must come from a region identified by regulation as “Mareeba”, that Tasmanian whisky must be distilled from Tasmanian ingredients, or that Batlow apples are a particular variety, picked at certain times, and from a place whose borders have been clearly delineated by law as being “Batlow”. Read more

William Van Caenegem – The Conversation – 29 may 2017