Long awaited, an organization devoted to the promotion and protection of Geographical Indications (GIs) in the United States (US) is now forming. The American Origin Product Association (AOPA) has been championed by Dr. Elizabeth Barham of the University of Arkansas, with the founding board including representatives of Kona Coffee, Idaho Potatoes and Missouri Pecans. Many other US products are considering the membership, including Vermont Maple Syrup. With the US lagging behind Europe, South America, and Asia in federal and state protection of origin products, the AOPA will be an NGO looking to take on these issues.
While the protection of GIs in the US is improving, a lot remains to be done. Idaho Potatoes has a state level Association which has given producers a certain level of federal recognition. Napa Valley Wine was successful in establishing a California law on origin wine and even obtained a European PDO. On the other hand, Kona Coffee has struggled with a misleading “10% Hawaii state requirement” for blended coffees using the Kona name, but recent activity by Kona growers has led to a class action lawsuit filed against Safeway for deceptively labelling its “Safeway Select Kona Blend Coffee” (in 2010, the Kona Coffee Farmers’ Association had received the Parmigiano-Reggiano Solidarity Award for its struggle to protect the original “100% Kona Coffee”). Further, Missouri Pecans recently discovered Chinese-grown nuts bearing the origin label.
Thanks to the encouragement of oriGIn, with a manual on US origin products as well as the opportunity to meet regularly with other GI producers from several countries, AOPA has moved forward toward the fight of misleading labelling and imitations of American GIs. These efforts are raising awareness with consumers and policy makers about the importance of legal protection and promotion of long embattled heritage origin products. The AOPA is currently seeking co-sponsors to support the founding conference in Fall, 2012 in Arkansas. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Barham (firstname.lastname@example.org)