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European Politics of Food Origin. A Semiotic Analysis of Geographical Indications

European Union

Jun 01, 2021

This chapter investigates the relationship between food products and origin places within the European Union food policies. In the 1990s, the EU established a Geographical Indication (GI) system, constituted of a set of food quality brands and a legal framework for food, wine and spirits. This system, defined as a sui generis model by insiders, entails a strong EU government participation in the typical food symbolic and material modelling. The sui generis model establishes a government monopoly on the place-based labels registration and institutes an atypical kind of intellectual property based on geographic marks. By proposing a semiotic approach toward the analysis of European Geographical Indications, this contribution aims at understanding their structural functioning and their disciplinary implications. The chapter carries out a semiotic analysis of two food regulations: the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI. These two case studies highlight how EU GIs conduct a complex food product and territorial standardization, building two separate legal prototypes which are linked by a narrative of origin. Moreover, the semiotic analysis proposed in this chapter pushes to consider the relationship between typical foods and their origin place in opposite terms: the territoryalso called terroir, can be considered as a meaning effect of the product itself. The article concludes by underscoring the cultural and political importance of local food production discipline and legal regulation in community identity building process.

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