EU: Yes to “Mountain Product” Designation

25 Jun 2014

The European Union has said yes. And now the European farmers and food producers who work and live in the mountains, protecting the environment, can choose to promote their product by using the term “mountain product” on the label. This is the concrete application of the first provision mentioned in the “Quality Package” (COM (2010) 733 of 10/12/2010, modifying Council Regulation (EC) No. 510/2006). A few days ago, on June 19, the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No. 665/2014 was published, setting out the conditions for using the optional quality term for products made in the mountains. 

The term “mountain product” essentially regards products deriving from animals farmed for at least two-thirds of their life in mountain zones and processed in the same areas. The term can also be applied to beekeeping products, if the bees have collected their nectar and pollen only in mountain areas.

“That the European Union has also allowed the use of the term ‘mountain product’ on PDO and PGI products is very important news,” commented Piero Sardo, the president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “Firstly because it breaks one of the most inviolable taboos of EU legislation, namely that whenever a product uses a European designation (PDO, PGI or TSG), nothing else distinguishing can be added, because, they say, it could pose a threat to free competition. Objectively it’s ridiculous: Why on earth should true information represent the risk of illegal competition? Only the minds of hardened bureaucrats could come up with such an aberration. Everything that correctly informs consumers should be welcome. Fine, now a breach has opened. And it has opened—and this is another reason it’s so important—to the advantage of the most fragile component of the European economy, mountain agriculture. In the past 30 years, the farming population in the Alps has gone down by 40% and half of the farms that were active in the early ’80s have closed. In a century and a half, 75% of the cultivated land in the French Alps has been lost. A good two-thirds of Alpine farm owners are over 45. This means that without turnover, within 20 years two-thirds of farms in the Alps will go out of business—and already today agriculture is almost always a secondary, supplementary activity. In some areas the situation is even more dramatic: for example, in the southwestern Alps, in the valleys around Cuneo and in Liguria and southern France, where tourism is not significant and the big towns are far away. Of course, a designation cannot in itself reverse this situation, but if properly supported by communication and training for farmers, it can mean a change to the trend. So we welcome this term, but we also want to state categorically that any designation used without a proper narrative that goes into the details of “that” product, of “that” place of origin, risks having little effectiveness.”

We must take this opportunity to highlight what we consider a small but significant revolution in the world of food product communication: the narrative label. Alongside the legally required information, this Slow Food-designed back label provides detailed information about producers, their farms, the plant varieties or animal breeds used, farming and processing techniques, animal welfare and places of origin.


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