The concept of designation of origin was introduced in 1905. Initially intended for wines and brandies, the protection conferred by designations of origin was expanded to all agricultural and products and in 1990.
A designation of origin is a distinctive sign intended to protect a product originating in a specific geographical area that derives its quality and specific characteristics from such area. It therefore characterizes an inseparable link between a given product and a given geographical area.
Designations of origin protect agricultural and agri-food products but also industrial and manufactured products (Law of 17 March 2014 on consumption and its implementing decree of 2 June 2015).
The National Institute of origin and quality (INAO) is a public administrative institution responsible for the implementation of French policy on official signs of identification of the origin and quality of agricultural and food products: appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), traditional specialty guaranteed (TSG), label rouge (LR) and organic farming (agriculture biologique (AB)).
INAO’s role in the recognition and protection of designations of origin and geographical indications is central as it controls those relating to agricultural products, agri-food products and natural resources.
The PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) identifies a product originating in a specific geographical area for which :
It is a European sign that protects the name of the product throughout the European Union. The rules for producing a PDO are set out in a specification drawn up by a defence and management organization and are subject to control procedures implemented by an independent organization approved by the INAO.
The AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) was replaced in France in 2012 by the PDO (protected designation of origin) for any products registered at the European level.
The term AOC is maintained only for French wines that comply with the following conditions:
The PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) identifies a product originating in a specific geographical area for which :
The TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) identifies a specific product or foodstuff:
The Red Label is a French national sign that refers to products which, by their terms of production or manufacture, have a higher level of quality compared to other similar products generally sold.
In addition to the sensory characteristics of the Label Rouge product and their perception by the consumer, the superior quality is based on:
The products that can benefit from a Label Rouge are foodstuffs and non-food and unprocessed agricultural products regardless of their geographical origin (including outside the European Union).
A Label Rouge food or product can simultaneously benefit from a Protected Geographical Indication or a traditional Speciality guaranteed, but not from a Designation of Origin (PDO).
The procedure for recognition as PDO and PGI is a collective process that must be carried out by a group representing all the operators in the sector concerned.
This group must first submit an application for recognition to the INAO’s local services consisting of the following documents:
Once the application for recognition has been sent to INAO, the National instruction procedure shall begin:
The application is first submitted to the Standing Committee, which examines its appropriateness, and then to the Commission of Inquiry, which analyses and guides the file.
The National Committee then decides on the delimitation of the geographical area and the draft specifications. If it considers that the application fulfils the required conditions, it decides to implement a national objection procedure. This objection procedure is designed to make the entire proposal for recognition of a new PDO or PGI known, and any person with a legitimate interest may lodge an objection within two months. In the event of admissible objections, the National Committee decides upon them.
After transmission to the supervisory ministries of the INAO, the specifications are approved by the publication of an interministerial decree in the Official Journal of the French Republic and by publication in the Official Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The European instruction procedure for registration as a PDO or PGI is then carried out:
The Ministry of Agriculture forwards the PDO or PGI registration application to the European Commission, which must examine it within a maximum of 6 months.
After examination by the European Commission, the application is published in the Official Journal of the EU in order to open the European objection procedure to the other Member States, which may lodge an objection within two months. If no opposition has been lodged, a registration regulation adding the name to the European register of PDOs and PGIs is published.
INAO shall send a copy of the specification to the applicant and the inspection organization.