July 27, 2017

The Fight for Gorgonzola and Mozzarella

 |  By: Mike Opperman

The European Union is bent on getting geographically-relevant cheese names banned from use in any place other than their native country. That would put names like Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone and others out of business, at least here in the U.S.

By aggressively negotiating with countries around the world for these “geographical indications” (GI), the EU hopes to gain exclusive use of these common food names. According to the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and an Informa Economics IEG report, if the EU effort is successful it would cows the U.S. dairy industry billions of dollars, slash domestic cheese consumption and increase consumer prices. Read a summary of the Informa report here.

The EU already put the GI language in its deal with Japan. USDEC President and CEO Tom Vilsack told a congressional committee that NAFTA modernization must move quickly to prevent the EU from making a deal with Mexico that would give it exclusive rights to common cheese names.

"It is a critically important issue and one that prompts us to encourage modernization to proceed expeditiously without delay," Vilsack says. "We can't afford to lose this race with the EU." Watch here for Vilsack’s response to the GI question posed during the Congressional hearing.

The big deal is ongoing negotiations between the EU and Mexico. A GI barrier in Mexico would be a significant impairment to U.S. exports. "If we allow the Europeans to monopolize certain terms for cheeses, that will make it difficult to market much of what we produce in this country," Vilsack told the committee today. "Mexico is negotiating with the EU for a free-trade agreement. What we're concerned about is which negotiation gets completed first."