25 May 2022 News

Flinzberger, L., Zinngrebe, Y., Bugalho, M.N. et al. EU-wide mapping of ‘Protected Designations of Origin’ food products (PDOs) reveals correlations with social-ecological landscape values. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 42, 43

The Geographical Indications (GIs) scheme is the EU’s primary policy tool for increasing the market values of geographically distinct food products. Although GIs are linked to the landscapes of food production, little is known about the social-ecological values they represent, mainly due to a lack of spatial data. In this study, we, therefore, mapped all 638 food products labeled as Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), using NUTS-3 areas as proxies for their actual extent, and correlated their distribution with 13 social-ecological indicators. By compiling this novel dataset, we show that the presence of PDOs strongly overlaps with environmental and cultural values. We reveal positive correlations of PDO frequency with high nature value farmland, semi-natural agriculture, tourism, and cultural heritage indicators. Further, we find that PDOs occur more often in economically weaker areas with older and declining populations. Besides differences in PDO distribution between northern and southern EU countries, we find different correlation patterns across the four largest food categories. For example, cheese and meat products are less correlated to environmental values compared to oils and fats, or fruit, vegetables and cereals. On that basis, we identify the potential of PDOs to support structurally deprived areas and propose PDOs as entry points for sustainable transformation and rural development policies—while simultaneously contributing to the conservation of cultural landscapes and their associated environmental values. As outlined in the Green Deal of the European Union and its Farm to Fork strategy, PDOs should be a part of this transformation. Based on the results of this study, we discuss more specifically for which production systems and under what enabling conditions PDOs are fit for this challenge. We recommend that future governance interventions for a sustainable transformation of EU’s agriculture should take the differences across regions and product categories into account.