Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Dev S. Gangjee
Chapter 4: Terroir and the sense of place
The word terroir is used in a variety of contexts and remains controversial. Terroir stands in opposition to globalisation and displacement. It is a concept used at every level of communication, generally employed as a sounding board for the issues of the moment. French in origin, the concept of terroir is woven into the political and cultural history of France and is still hotly debated in the research community. Today it is more relevant than ever, linked to the French-championed principle of protecting the geographical origins of agricultural products and foodstuffs. For better or worse, that principle is steadily gaining global acceptance, which raises a number of issues, not least in relation to the link between product and erritory. It turns out that what is feasible albeit challenging in France is often unworkable in developing countries. The terroir approach has certain inherent weaknesses that tend to give undue prominence to its French origins. But it can also represent a valuable tool for local development. First though, more thought must be given to the nature and extent of the link with place, and the issues at stake in international negotiations. For that, we must take a closer look at France, exploring the reasons behind its current devotion to terroir – what the word means, how it is used and why what works on paper does not always work in the real world. Terroir must be viewed in a global context.
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