The Diet passed a bill to legislate geographical indications on Wednesday, June 18, aimed at promoting and protecting local agricultural brands.
Agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the ministry will take measures to encourage farmers and agricultural organizations to utilize the system.
GI system certifies that a registered agricultural or food brand is produced in a particular region using a method unique to that area, thus linking its quality, reputation or other characteristics to its geographical origin. It sets a standard to assure quality of the products and avoid the use of brand names for products lacking the quality or those produced in other areas. Registered products will be allowed to bear a logo mark to indicate they are certified.
Responding to a question by Shuji Yamada, an Upper House member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Hayashi said the ministry will allocate funds in the current fiscal year to create a quality management standard and familiarize farmers with the system.
Hayashi also said that he hopes the system will be connected with measures to revitalize farming in mountainous areas, considering that such regions have more unique geographical characteristics compared with plains. The remarks were made in response to a question by Katsuya Ogawa of the Democratic Party of Japan.
Questions came from many Diet members including Kuniko Koda of Your Party on the differences between the new system and the existing trademark system for regional organizations promoting local brands.
Hayashi explained that under the new system, only the products which meet the quality standard will be allowed to bear the brand labels, the use of labels will not be limited to certain organizations, and the government will be responsible for dealing with misuse and counterfeiting. He added that producers can use both systems according to their brand strategy, taking into account the characteristics of each region and product.
Asked by LDP member Iwao Horii whether the registered products will be protected overseas, Masayuki Yamashita, director of the agriculture ministry’s food industry affairs bureau, said the products will not be automatically protected under the GI systems of other countries, which means producers should register their brand logos under the trademark systems of the countries where they export their products to.
(June 18, 2014)