Smith Hails Vote On Food Quality Labels

21 June 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has hailed today's committee vote on the future of the EU's protected quality labels (Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed) as a boost for Scottish Agriculture.
Forming part of the European Commission's "simplification agenda", the package approved today condenses a number of existing legal acts into a single piece of legislation governing all aspects of approval and management of the quality labels, creating simple and more rapid new procedures for producers to ensure protection for their products. Smith also helped secure a new optional quality reserved term, "product of mountain farming"; a greater role for the producer organisations themselves in the active management of these labels; and greater protection for producers against arbitrary cancellations of protected labels by the European Commission.

Alyn said:

"In our increasingly competitive global market, if Scottish Agriculture is not about quality we might as well shut up shop. Today's vote will help in identifying our produce as top end.

"It's clear that producing high quality traditional produce can be an important niche for Scotland's farmers. We have already reaped the benefits of the EU quality labels, as the tremendous success of Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb have shown, through increased sales and value-added retained for the farmer. Today, I believe we have improved and enhanced these schemes, not least through providing mechanisms for groups of producers themselves to take part in the management of individual labels and to improve their marketability. I'm looking forward to exploring the opportunities for Scottish farmers to take advantage of the new optional quality term, "product of mountain farming", to highlight the advantages of our extensive pastoral systems and the grass-fed protein we produce.

"The only disappointment for me was a failure to take immediate action on establishing a new "local farming and direct sales" labelling scheme. I think this would have been worth exploring, and it was initially proposed by the Commission in a draft but then withdrawn. It was a great opportunity to promote our farmers markets and encouraging consumers to buy directly from their farmer, with short production chains that would reduce carbon emissions as well, but unfortunately the committee voted merely for an impact assessment. I shall try to raise this issue again in the negotiations to come."