MATRIC Examines Implications of Geographical Indications for U.S. Agriculture

What would happen if American companies lost the ability to call their homegrown sparkling wine "champagne," or their crumbly and salty curd cheese "feta"? If a current proposal by the European Union through the World Trade Organization (WTO) is passed, then Champagne would become a geographical indication (GI), and the name could only be used for bubbly that comes from the Champagne region of France. Likewise, cheese called Feta would have to come from the sheep or goats of Greece and not from the cows of Wisconsin. With the threat of losses to U.S. companies, U.S. trade negotiators have opposed the proposal from the start. But could GIs be used to protect high-value, uniquely American products in world markets? A briefing paper published by the Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center describes and contrasts three systems of protecting property rights for agricultural products: certification marks, E.U.-wide GIs, and WTO GIs. The paper discusses some of the benefits and problems of each system and its effectiveness in helping to differentiate and protect high-value U.S. agricultural products. The paper, "Geographical Indications and Property Rights: Protecting Value-Added Agricultural Products," is available at

(Released September 2004)