Local products and geographical indications: taking account of local knowledge and biodiversity


  • Laurence Bérard and Philippe Marchenay are researchers in the eco-anthropology and ethnobiology research unit of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle. They head the “Terroir Resources – Cultures, Customs, and Societies” Department located in Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain), at the Alimentec Technopole. Their research focuses on the ethnological dimensions of local farm and food products. They work on bringing to the fore, characterising, and analysing the cultural specificity of such products. Their work emphasises the knowledge, practices, and representations implemented in the elaboration, conservation, and use of these resources.
    Email: laurence.berard@ethno-terroirs.cnrs.fr; philippe.marchenay@ethno-terroirs.cnrs.fr


The debate and negotiations in progress at the international level concerning the protection of geographical indications (GI) are of direct interest to the local agricultural products and foodstuffs called terroir products. Beyond the protection of the use of their name, which is the founding principle of this system, and the legal and economic considerations this system implies, new questions are being raised about these products concerning the diversification of farming and sustainable development. More and more, and in a favourable context, another major issue is becoming apparent: the biological and cultural diversity linked to these products. This questioning concerns the status and the future of these local resources in our societies and whether or not GIs can help maintain this diversity. Protecting local and traditional products through the GI system can contribute to conserving biodiversity at various levels: domestic animal breeds, plant varieties, microbial ecosystems, and landscapes. This is also a way of maintaining in a formal way shared knowledge and practices, since they underpin the protected resource. Taking account of these elements offers an opportunity to think about agriculture differently and leads us to propose an innovative approach to local products. Several examples taken in France will help show how links can be established between the protection of GI, cultural biodiversity, and local knowledge.