The farming industry has hit back at US lobby groups which are pushing for the UK to drop protected food names such as Scotch Beef, Cornish clotted cream and Stilton blue cheese after Brexit.
These food names are currently protected by EU rules on Geographical Indicators (GIs), but the US Dairy Export Council has described the safeguards as ‘preposterous’, complaining they allowed countries to ‘monopolise’ production of certain foods.
This threat to geographical indicators could hit Scotland particularly hard, where the Scotch Whisky brand supports 30,000 jobs – not including those in the farming sector.
GMB Scotland, which represents workers in the industry, has asked for urgent guarantees the protections will not be dropped.
GMB Scotland senior organiser Louise Gilmour said: “These reports come as no surprise, but it is the weak response of the UK Government to this speculation which will set alarm bells ringing.
“The geographical indicator status of Scotch Whisky is an essential measure which sustains high employment levels.
“If the UK Government surrenders Scotch Whisky’s geographical indicator for a quick-fire trade deal with the US, then they would be as well putting a ‘Scotland for Sale’ sign on the door.”
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick and NFU food chain adviser Helen Hunt, however, said it was their understanding the UK Government was working to protect geographical indicators post-Brexit and it was vital for Ministers to do so.
Defra told Farmers Guardian it continued to support the importance of GIs and all current protections would be transferred into domestic law by the EU Withdrawal Bill on Brexit day.
But the department ‘could not say much more’ on future protections because they would be subject to negotiations, both with the EU and the US.
A spokesman added: “Leaving the EU gives us a golden opportunity to secure ambitious free trade deals while supporting our farmers and producers.
“We will ensure consumers continue to have a wide range of choice of high-quality food products at affordable prices.”