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Plats de résistance

Introducing and practicing PDO and PGI in Norway

Turning to protected quality through translations of meaning and transformations of materiality
La qualité protégée comme traduction de sens et transformation de matérialité – Introduction et pratique des Appellations d’Origine (AOC et IGP) en Norvège
Atle Wehn Hegnes


This article focuses on the work undertaken by various parties on the implementation and use of the Norwegian scheme for Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The research question is: What characterises implementation and use of the scheme of PDO and PGI in a food culture lacking a concept of terroir and where the turn to quality is based primarily on the initiatives of governmental authorities, rather than producers and consumers? To answer this question I describe the introduction of the scheme in Norway, and specifically how three potato-producing organisations have applied for and been granted PDO or PGI. This leads to a twofold conclusion: On an empirical level, I show how PDO and PGI have to be adapted in order to fit the Norwegian context and food culture; on a theoretical level I propose an outline for a new conceptual framework, and argue that implementation and use of PDO and PGI in Norwegian food culture is characterised by food Cultural Adaptation Work (CAW) consisting of translations of meaning and transformation of material properties. CAW is put into motion because Norwegian food culture lacks a concept of terroir and the switch to focus on quality is based primarily on the initiatives of governmental authorities, rather than producers and consumers. The study is based on diverse forms of empirical material, such as document studies and interviews.

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  • 1 Norwegian Minister for Agriculture and Food 2008-2012.
  • 2 Feature article, Local food - National opportunities, in Adresseavisen 13.02.2009 page 35.

1By the end of the 1980s, new ways of thinking about and looking at food emerged in Norway. Subsequently, Norwegian governmental authorities have promoted a range of different food qualities and the sale of high quality food. The former Norwegian Minister for Food and Agriculture, Lars Peder Brekk1 made no secret of the fact that the Norwegian government has been at the forefront of this development when he stated, “I am immodest enough to say that the situation for local food would have been different if it had not been for the government's effort to develop a policy in this area.”2 The development and the situation he refers to, has contributed to a new terminology and a new focus on food quality in Norwegian food policy and food culture. Despite the minister’s optimism, this turn to new qualities represents a minor trend and does not replace the industrial production and bulk regime (Jacobsen, 2001) that has dominated the Norwegian food culture and food market in the post-war period (Amilien, Schjøll and Vramo, 2008: 44).

  • 3 On a more regional level this marginal Norwegian food cultural evolution should also be regarded as (...)

2The Norwegian turn to new qualities coincides with a growing focus on food labelling in Europe over the past two to three decades.3 During this period, several labelling schemes have been established or are under development in various areas such as: ethical trade, organic products, health, animal welfare, mountain quality food products, and so on. The schemes form the basis for strategic marketing and positioning of manufacturers and retailers and also enable consumers to make informed purchases.

3The growth of labelling schemes to symbolise different food qualities is often associated with the rise of the “Quality Turn" (Murdoch, Marsden and Banks 2000). The “quality turn” indicates a turn made by consumers, retailers and producers away from standardised products to alternative qualities (Goodman 2002). Whereas some quality turns may be described as bottom up processes, the Norwegian one is characterised by a top-down initiative. This difference implies that what we refer to as the Quality turn may, in different contexts, cultures and countries, consist of entirely different histories of turning to alternative qualities. Hence, the specific development in Norway is an appropriate object of study in order to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the “quality turn”, since it represents a different motivation and different forms of adaptation compared to the prevalent understanding of shifts in quality preferences.

  • 4 Norske matspesialiteter.
  • 5 PDO and PGI are examples of Geographical indications (GIs). In the TRIPS agreement, which is part o (...)

4‘Norwegian Food Specialities’4 is an important classification introduced by the Norwegian government to denote new quality products. Inspired by this classification, in this article I describe this new Norwegian way of thinking about food production, sales and consumption as the “Food Specialisation of Norway”. A historical timeline can be drawn, commencing in 1986 with a ‘green wave’ representing introduction of the scheme for organic quality in Norway. The green wave was followed by a focus on national quality and the ‘Good Norwegian’ scheme, indicating compliance with a standardised level of quality for Norwegian foods established in 1994. The regional, local, traditional and special qualities were first emphasised through the scheme "Speciality" in 2001. On 5 July 2002, the Norwegian regulation for PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)5 and TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) entered into force in accordance with EU regulations. Norway is part of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) but the agreement does not extend to agricultural and fisheries policies. Hence, when the PDO, PGI and TSG schemes were established in the EU in 1992, in order to promote and protect names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs, this did not infer any obligation to implement this system in Norway. The initiative to establish a system for GIs in Norway was made by the Norwegian agricultural authorities.

5Whereas the Norwegian system was developed according to the common European system, the EU-system was inspired by existing national systems, e.g. the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and the Italian DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata). The French AOC scheme is closely related to the concept of terroir (Barham, 2003), which dates back to the 13th Century (Bérard and Marchenay, 2008). In short, a terroir product is characterised by a specific geographical origin, developed over a long period of interaction with the local traditions, local environment, and savoir faire. Such factors are considered in applications for an AOC/PDO/PGI label. An exact French definition of terroir is still difficult to find, and there is a constant search to render the term “quantifiable”. Although the importance of terroir has changed and continues to evolve (Amilien, 2011), there is an advantage in that French manufacturers, the French Government, and consumers have an understanding of the term's content. In Norway there is no equivalent term that emphasises the product's cultural connection to place. Norwegian food traditions had a modest impact during the 18th Century nation-building process, compared to other parts of Norwegian folk culture (Notaker, 2000 and 2001; Amilien and Stø, 2000: 10). This may explain in part why Norwegian food culture has no extensive tradition of designating products with their place of origin. The focus has been on the national and not the regional or local level (Amilien and Hegnes 2004). This does not mean that terroir products do not exist in Norway, but it has hitherto lacked a terminology to describe the dynamic trinity of products, peoples, and places, as in terroir.

6Against the backdrop outlined above I will take a closer look at the work performed by different actors on the implementation and use of the Norwegian scheme for PDO and PGI. My research questions are: what characterises the implementation and use of the scheme of PDO and PGI in a food culture lacking a concept of terroir and where the turn to quality is primarily based on the initiative of governmental authorities, rather than producers and consumers? To answer these questions I describe the introduction of the scheme in Norway and how three different potato producers’ organisations have applied and been assigned PDO or PGI. Furthermore, I elaborate and expand on the understanding and establishment of a conceptual framework in order to identify, describe, and understand how implementation, management and the use of schemes for PDO and PGI require different adjustments in differing national and food-cultural contexts.

  • 6 For a more detailed description of the methodological approach see Hegnes 2013 (forthcoming).

7The study is based on diverse forms of empirical material. Document studies of laws, policy documents, etc. have been analysed to uncover what kind of measures and concepts have been important for implementation of the scheme in Norway. Interviews with producer organisations have involved the persons responsible for working out product regulations in producer organisations. Interviews have also been conducted with key informants representing public administrative bodies administering the regulation. All interviews have been semi-structured. The interviews were conducted in August and September 2007, and February, March, June, and July 2008. I conducted 22 interviews with a total of 30 people.6

Translations and transformations

8During my data collection and analysis, it became evident that different actors perform important and varied work in adapting the European system to the Norwegian context, and the Norwegian food culture to the scheme for protected designations. My identification of this work, its scope and significance, was important in terms of my decision to focus on making people’s work on cultural adaptation the main concern of my study.

9It is an established view that implementation, management and use of schemes for protected designations call for different adjustments in differing food cultural contexts. Nevertheless, no conceptual framework has been developed in order to identify, describe, and understand such adaptations, their interconnectedness, and the consequences they bring.

10Barham’s understanding of “translation” is an important example on how the meaning of terroir is adapted and institutionally expressed in the AOC labelling process (2003: 128). This type of translation practice is also important in terms of understanding how the Norwegian scheme was implemented and how producers relate to the labelling process. Nonetheless, during my study it became evident that translation of meaning is not the only strategy different actors need to employ in adapting regulations to the Norwegian context and products to PDO/PGI. Norwegian producers also have to adapt the material properties of their products. I propose to use the term transformation to denote this activity.

11Across different disciplines and perspectives on the topic of Geographical Indications, there is a focus on the various processes of adaptation. In line with Barham, several studies implicate that there is a need for translation of meaning and knowledge. Fonte and Grandos’ description of the certification process as a “translator of knowledge” (2006: 44) is one such example.

12Tregear, Arfini, Belletti and Marescotti's study represents another focus on the qualification process of PDO and PGIs and how it “effectively transforms the local knowledge and/or natural resources incorporated within the regional food (the basis of the added value) into the collective intellectual property of the actor group” (2007:13). Ray represents an additional example of focusing on how “the creation of state regulations to implicate geographical source into product identity, transforms local knowledge into property” (Ray, 1998: 10).

13Where several studies focus on the translation of meaning or knowledge, there are also some that focus on material adaptations. Bérard and Marchenay use “transformation” to describe the important relationship between natural factors and human activity in PDO. This can be understood as an example of how people actively work with products to adapt nature, or materiality.

“… [N]atural factors play an important role in PDO. Some places are physically predisposed to the types of production that develop there. The natural environment alone, however, cannot account for what makes these products special. The real key to their transformation is human activity expressed through particular skills, social patterns, practices and perceptions” (ibid., 2007).

14These are just a few examples of studies focusing on how people adapt the scheme to different food cultural conditions and how different food cultural conditions are adapted to the scheme. In all examples the terms translations and transformations are utilised. There are also supplementary examples of how translation and transformation are used to describe different adaptation processes in respect to PDO and PGI (Bérard and Marchenay, 1996: 240, 2006: 110; Rangnekar, 2004: 22; Marsden, Banks and Bristow, 2000: 425-426; Renting, Marsden and Banks, 2003; 400; Marescotti 2003: 4; Vakoufaris, 2010: 39; Albisu and Corcoran, 2001: 366; Calvo, 2000; Piredda, Scintu and Ledda, 2002: 210; Albayrak and Gunes, 2010: 1061; Feagan 2007: 37; Marty 1997: 54).

15Although translation and transformation are important concepts in describing how PDO and PGI are adapted to different settings, they are often used without being attributed to any particular analytic meaning. Sometimes they are used to describe material concerns, whereas others use them to depict changes in meaning and knowledge. Although processes described as translation and transformation seem important, there is little effort to analyse and develop theoretical tools in order to accommodate these processes.

16Implementation, management, and use of PDO and PGI in Norway require adjustments of both meaning and materiality. To identify, describe, and understand how this adaptation of meaning and materiality is worked out I propose to elaborate further on the concepts of translation and transformation, giving them a special meaning. In this regard translation refers to adaptations of meaning and transformation refers to material adaptations. These adaptation practices may furthermore be understood as elements of Cultural Adaptation Work (CAW).

Translating the scheme

17The aim of introducing PDO and PGI in Norway was to contribute to business development and to add increased value to Norwegian food production and the food production industry. It was also intended to ensure the provision of information given to consumers. Positive experience from EU countries is another important underlying factor for setting up the scheme in Norway. In respect to potatoes in particular, one might say that the European scheme has been adopted into the Norwegian context because Potatoes from Oppdal, Northern Norway, and Ringerike are believed to have similar status to their European cousins: Pomme de terre de l'Île de Ré, Pomme de Terre de Merville (France), Batata de Trás-os-Montes (Portugal), Pataca de Galicia, Patatas de Prades (Spain) and Jersey Royal potatoes (UK).

18The regulation is linked with Norwegian national laws, allowing product designations to be protected against other products using the same designation. The State, represented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, holds ownership of the scheme. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has administrative responsibility and the Norwegian Food Branding Foundation has been authorised to provide information, guidance, and preparation of cases.

19An important part of the Norwegian translation work on PDO and PGI is the adjustment that takes into consideration the fact that Norwegian food culture has no extensive tradition of designating products with the name of their place of origin. As I described in the introduction, this can in part be explained by the fact that Norwegian food was not an important part of 18th Century nation-building. The focus has been on the national and not on the regional or local level (Amilien and Hegnes, 2004). This led to few Norwegian products with a product name denoting the product’s place of origin, as often is the case elsewhere. Hence, one component of the translation process is to establish product names designating their area of origin. Consequently, in the course of the application process, producer organisations are asked to come up with a name that associates the product to the specific place. This practice adds a new meaning to the product and the new meaning is further translated through the new name.

  • 7 24th of October 2003, 13th of February 2004, 19th of March 2007, 18th of May 2007, 1st of January 2 (...)

20Where the European regulation is based in part on the fact that “there is not a country in the world where geographical origin is not linked to products. It is universal practice to name a product after the place where it originated – the geographical name of the place where it was made” (Bérard and Marchenay 2008: 7), this practice has not been a widespread aspect of Norwegian food culture. The discrepancy between ideals and realities, following the introduction of the scheme in Norway, activated the adaptation work. Revisions of the Norwegian regulation are concrete examples of such adaptations. Since 2002 the Norwegian regulation for PDO/PGI/TSG has been revised seven times.7 Some of the changes have been made to adjust the new regulation to the Norwegian context. In other cases the aim has been to adjust the Norwegian regulation to the European regulation. The meaning of the regulation is adapted to Norwegian food culture, or, conversely, European regulations are adapted in order to fit into the Norwegian context whilst remaining compatible with the European system. Revisions of the regulation may be considered translations.

21In order for the scheme to be effective, a language and specific food cultural conception has to be established. Following the introduction of the scheme in Norway, efforts have been made to establish such a language and food culture, and for the most part after introduction of the scheme. This creates a continuous dynamic, whereby the scheme is adapted to both the international and national context. Producers and products are at the same time subject to these complex and shifting requirements. One of the officials responsible for dealing with applications for protected designations described the situation thus:

“Usually it takes a few years, from when we start guiding the producers until they submit an application. During this period the juridical requirements may have changed, and requirements may have become stricter. So when the application is submitted we may require even more information and documentation than we asked for at the outset. This has been frustrating for some manufacturers.”

22Studying initial thoughts in respect to the introduction of protected designations in Norway in the early ‘90s, the natural question is whether it was forgotten, ignored or not taken into account that the scheme is based on a terminology, or a term like terroir, to be successful and have legitimacy.

23The discovery of the importance of terroir, or a way to translate this concept, seems to come later – perhaps not until 2000, at which time a delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture made a study tour to France to learn about the AOC. The report from the trip stated that: AOC is linked to the concept of “terroir”, nature, culture and people.8

24Successive Ministers for Food and Agriculture have also asked how to designate these products – often looking to France for inspiration. During the “Tasting Week”9 in 2006, the Norwegian Minister for Food and Agriculture, Terje Riis-Johansen, put it this way:“It's fun for us here in the north to "learn" some of the ways the French focus on the pleasure of food and taste, and also look at the way they see connections between production location and quality. The concept of "terroir" is French. I’m sure that we'll find a comparable Norwegian word.”10

25During the opening of another food event in 2008 the new Minister for Food and Agriculture, Lars Peder Brekk, followed up:

  • 11 (...)

“Note in particular: Ringerikspotet from Ringerike, Gulløye from Northern-Norway and Fjellmandel from Oppdal. These varieties are the most exclusive we have in Norway. They have achieved a protected geographical designation. It is worth noting that these potatoes are now in the same league as Parma Ham and Camembert with regard to legal right to use of brand names.11

26Comparisons and adaptation of a Norwegian terroir concept are part of the adaptation work. Adaptations are meant to support and create legitimacy and security for Norwegian food and food culture. Such continuous translations of European law and adaptation to the Norwegian context are demanding for all those involved, and exist purely because there are differences between French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Norwegian food cultures.

Translating and Transforming Potatoes

  • 12 Ringerikserter, Skjenning and Gulløye fra Nord-Norge.
  • 13 Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • 14 Økologisk Tjukkmjølk fra Røros, Eplejuice frå Hardanger, Fjellmandel fra Oppdal, Hardangereple, Har (...)
  • 15 Badsturøkt kjøtt på namdalsk vis.

27As of August 2012, three Norwegian,12 and two Italian13 products have been protected according to PDO in Norway. Fifteen products are protected according to PGI14 and one according to TSG.15 Three of these products are potatoes, namely; ”Ringerikspotet fra Ringerike” (Ringeriks potatoes from Ringerike), ”Gulløye fra Nord-Norge” (Golden-eye from the northern part of Norway ) and ”Fjellmandel fra Oppdal” (Mountain almond potatoes from Oppdal).

28When a producer organisation decides to apply for PDO or PGI, this requires a work process, which then results in an agreed history, a defined geographical area for origin and production and a specified production technique. This work often involves converting a practical and tacit knowledge into a juridical language (Fonte and Grando, 2006: 44) and a specific product regulation. Hence, product qualification is a core activity in protecting designations, and may be defined as “the specification of production practices and/or product characteristics by an agent, which is then linked to a particular name or label” (Tregear et al., 2007: 13). To expand the understanding and implications of such qualification work in the Norwegian context, it is necessary to study adaptations of both meaning and materiality.

29PDO can be achieved by products with a high degree of connection to the geographical area that the product designation indicates. PGI can be achieved by products with a connection to the geographical area that the product designation indicates. TSG can be achieved by products that have special characteristics that distinguish from otherwise similar products. The products should be made of traditional ingredients, have a traditional composition, or be produced according to a traditional production method. According to the wording of the regulation, the main requirements constituting the product qualification are related to producers’ ability to document the products based on seven criteria: 1) Product designation, 2) Members of the producer organisation, 3) Raw materials; the most important physical, chemical, microbiological or organoleptic properties, 4) Description of geographic area, 5) Information that confirms that the foodstuff originates from the specified geographic area, 6) Description of the production method, and 7) Description of conditions that confirm the product’s connection to the geographical environment or the geographical origin.

30At first glance, documenting products according to these themes may seem an achievable task, but often this is not the case. There are strict criteria related to each theme and commonly there are problems relating to the actual documentation process. The producer organisations have to learn how to express themselves in juridical terms, and executive officers have to learn about each product.

31In my interviews, both producers and executive officers describe the gap between the practical and juridical spheres as a major hurdle to overcome. Producers sometimes claim that executive officers have insufficient knowledge about the product they want to protect. Conversely, the executive officers dealing with the application work claim that the organisation of producers have insufficient knowledge about the juridical aspects tied in with the application process. Both groups also admit that it is difficult for the other part to see their own point of view. In terms of the application being part of an adaptation process, such mutual frustrations can be described as the challenges of translation and transformation relating to the aim of achieving consensus on how the translation and transformation should take place. The routes to consensus are perceived differently from application to application, and by different actors. The challenge relates in part to the ability to communicate and create a common understanding of what is required in an application. One of the informants from the public bodies explained it like this:

“We have tried over time to be more specific and to make ourselves clearer when we write what we call deficiency letters. Once we receive an application, we almost always have to ask for further documentation and then we call it a deficiency letter. The deficiencies are almost always in the applications, because of the complexity of the regulations. To begin with, we followed the regulations and legal practice, and at that time used a very formal language that was difficult for some producers to understand. When they received the deficiency letter from us, they might have thought; “Oh my God, is it possible to explain it in such difficult terms?” So we have tried to adapt our own language along the way. We still have to refer to the terms and provisions they have to fulfil, but now we try to explain it in a better way. Whether we succeed or not, I don’t know, but at least we’ve tried. But the feedback we’ve received on the formal language in the deficiency letters is that our applicants have struggled with it. Some have struggled to understand what we actually meant, and some what they actually need to do.”

32We can also trace some of the same challenges of translation within the group of producers:

“We think it is strange! It’s just a definition thing. We feel that we are practitioners here, right? We know that the potatoes have always been cultivated here, and it has always been done this way. And then there may be someone who is more concerned with judicial aspects and who wants to use another system. It's then a question of how to get the two things to match. But we try to formulate it so it fits into the system, so it will be fine in relation to the regulation.”

33The ability of the actors involved to adapt to the other parties’ point of view is crucial in terms of coming to an agreement. This may best be learned through interaction between producers and executive officers, in situ, i.e., where the actual product is produced. This may contribute to “ostensive teaching of words” which can be described as the act where “teaching of words can be said to establish an association between the word and the thing” (Wittgenstein 2001: 4). This kind of teaching helps ease the application process in both directions. Due to such challenges some of the producers also express their gratitude for actually meeting a person representing the administrative body.

Producer: “They supported us 110%. The leader came here exclusively to show us how to fill in the application and the important details to include. This was of great support! […]

AWH: “You said you had meetings with the administrative body where the critical points in the application process were reviewed?”

Producer: “Yes! After we sent the proposal we received feedback about what was good and what was not good. We also checked to make sure that the proposal for the regulations, or what was to become the regulations, tallied with reality.”

AWH: “That would be an advantage!”

Producer: “A delegation, including a lawyer, came here. We visited different properties and got feedback on what could be done better and what needed to be changed and what was ok. I felt they walked beside us all the way.”

34As described, there are challenges related to building a common understanding upon which the translation work can be based. “Ringerikspotet fra Ringerike” is the most interesting potato case in respect to the challenges for both translation and transformation. Their first application was submitted in March 2003. The producer-organisation wanted to protect the name “Ringerikspotet” as a PDO. During the executive work there were different opinions in terms of whether they could accept this as a PDO or not. The main objections related to whether Ringerikspotet could be cultivated outside the area described in the application, and whether Ringerikspotet is regarded as a variety. The final decision was made by the Ministry for Food and Agriculture, which rejected the application in October 2006. They concluded that Ringerikspotet could not be registered as a PDO because it conflicts with the name of the plant variety Ringerikspotet and as a result is likely to mislead consumers as to the true origin of the product. The organisation of producers was encouraged to make a new application for a PGI with the name Ringerikspotet from Ringerike, which they also put forward in December 2006. This application was approved in June 2007.

35Fjellmandel fra Oppdal” and “Gullauge fra Nord-Norge” applied in March 2004 and March 2005, respectively. Fjellmandel fra Oppdal received its PGI in September 2006 and Gulløye fra Nord-Norge received its PDO in October 2006. Whereas Fjellmandel fra Oppdal and Gulløye fra Nord-Norge went through the application process without any significant problems of translation and transformation, Ringerikspotet fra Ringerike set the whole bureaucratic system into action by submitting a complaint with regard to the first refusal.

36The translation and transformation competence is related to actors’ knowledge of the translation and transformation work. This competence varies between the different actors and levels. Actors or organisations ascribed to the responsibility of translations and transformations have the power to decide the relevance of competence. The following extract relating to the process refers to such different levels of competence:

“In a way we depend on the manufacturers’ knowledge of their own tradition and production, but if we think that some aspects of the application sound dubious or strange, we can make our own investigations, and do so. We then submit the case to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority for statements, and the application is then evaluated by professionals with special competence in respect to the product for which the application is being made and the specific area it is produced in. The Food Safety Authority may have objections concerning the application, and may not accept it because it is improperly documented. The feedback is given to the producer organisation so they can make adjustments to the application or product regulations. In this way it is a collaboration process that results in adjustments. There may also be further input during the hearing, which either confirms or denies what is written in the product regulation draft, then we undertake further reviews.”

37Arguments used in adaptation work are primarily based on and related to the Norwegian regulation. Though, in some cases the argument put forward is: “This is how it is done in the EU”. The public bodies possess the translation skills that are legitimised via an existing and continuous updating of the regulations that based on EU regulations and practices. However, there are also cases where the manufacturers themselves argue against the administrative body, and highlight practices they have found in the EU system. In some instances, what seems decisive for the outcome is the ability to refer to European practice; in other instances the Norwegian context is more important.

38It is also important to underline that there are those who have problems with adaptation work, and those who have less difficulty with it. Those who share a common understanding of the scheme with those who enforce the application process may find it easier to overcome than do applicants with a different understanding. The first group are often familiar with written documentation work. Translation competence can thus be illustrated through a set of translators who move between two ideal types - the specialist who knows both production and law, and the novice, that only knows his own field.

39One might ask whether protection of designations also implies a translation of designations. Our three potatoes had different names before they were protected. Potatoes from Ringerike were sold as Ringerikspotet before becoming protected. Potatoes protected as Gulløye fra Nord-Norge where formerly also named Gullauge and Mandelpotet fra Oppdal became Fjellmandel fra Oppdal. During the application process different opinions where proposed to solve the designation problem. Deciding on designations may thus be regarded as one kind of translation because it is related to changes in meaning. Adding a place to the product name also changes perceptions of the product’s origin being from anywhere to being specifically related to a specific geographical area.

40The content of solid matter is regarded as a factor contributing to the quality of the potatoes. There are a number of reasons for believing that strict regulation of matter content has not been a part of the history of potatoes until they became protected through the scheme. Based on the product qualification, Ringerikspotet from Ringerike must contain high levels of solid matter, as per the product regulation, Gulløye fra Nord-Norge must have solid matter content of more than 22% and Fjellmandel fra Oppdal must have solid matter content of 22-26%. Deciding on dry matter content may thus be regarded as a form of transformation because relates to changes in materiality. Potatoes with lower solid matter, cultivated in the same area, cannot be designated with the same name any more.

41Determination of the geographical area in the case of Oppdal mandel potatoes involved two dimensions: area and meters above sea level. It was determined that the Oppdal municipality should delineate the area. Mandel potatoes are also cultivated in the neighbouring municipalities, but few if any of the farmers in these areas wanted to join the collaboration. The other aspect applies exclusively to Oppdal potatoes. Whereas the two other potatoes define their geographical area based solely on area, Oppdal potatoes involve another dimension: meters above sea level. They have to be produced 400 meters above sea level. Deciding on meters above sea level may be regarded as a form of transformation, because it relates to changes or classification of materiality/nature.

42The application processes set new requirements for the potatoes. A part of the scheme's purpose is that products with protected designations should be of high quality. This has resulted in specific and shared requirements of potato farmers. New designations simultaneously bring new quality requirements that change the status of potatoes regardless of origin. Potatoes with a high dry matter content could be defined within the product regulatory requirements, while others will fall outside this category. Transformation and translation from a normal potato to a potato from a specific place is achieved through tests of size, solid matter, colour, etc. Those which meet the consensual criteria are granted protected designation, while those that do not will be sold without the same strong link to origin, even though they may originate from the same field.


43Elizabeth Barham’s seminal article (2003) demonstrated that the concept and meaning of terroir is translated into AOC-schemes. Based on my findings from the Norwegian context, one may ask whether this translation is an easier task in countries in the southern part of Europe than in the northern part. This may be ascribed to different understandings of the link between place and food quality in north and south (Amilien, 2011:89). Such differences give rise to different challenges and different kinds of adaption work. The Norwegian case, and perhaps others, requires a more nuanced understanding of the adaptation of PDO and PGI in order to be understood.

44Existing literature and the empirical material presented in this study show that adaptations relating to meaning and materiality are important aspects of the implementation and practice of Protection of Designations. The analysis has provided examples and conceptualisations on how translation and transformations can contribute to the understanding of such dynamics in this field of research. The analysis showed that meaning and knowledge have been translated and products have been transformed during the product qualification process. As mentioned in the introduction, the processes of translation and transformation are interwoven and mutually dependent. Let us take this a step further with a quotation from a representative of the framers organisations:

AWH: “What do you think about putting your longstanding production tradition into juridical terms? Do you recognise your own tradition in it?”

Producer: “Yes, in the end. Because then it has been translated into our language. Then it’s our own formula we have to conform to in our work.”

45This quotation indicates an instance in which translation and transformation merge. Knowledge in respect to potato farming has been translated into meaning in the form of a regulation, and the potatoes have been transformed according to this product regulation during the product-qualification process. Investigating this dynamic further enables us to elaborate analytically on the relationship between translation and transformation. Transforming terroir seems to be a global challenge of PDO/PGI labelling, in line with translation, as Barham concluded in 2003. Hence, my conceptualisation of CAW and adaptive practices may contribute to understanding how local practice and global regulations are linked in a highly complex manner.

46CAW brings about a number of consequences and paradoxes. The analysis shows that CAW facilitates the introduction of a new vocabulary and a new food-cultural knowledge in Norway. This makes it possible to communicate and understand the new connections between food, people, and places in Norwegian food culture. Hence, the new vocabulary and understanding is in step with the aims of the scheme in terms of preserving important knowledge of Norwegian food and food culture. However, the adaptation work also promotes innovation and occasionally alienates producers from their own products during the application process. This contrasts with the scheme’s purpose, i.e., preservation of knowledge. Another consequence of the adaptation work, during the qualification process, is that it contributes to the fact that products become more alike, resulting in fewer products. This contradicts the aim of the scheme, i.e. contributing to increased diversity of food. The different consequences of adaptation work suggest that the effects of Protected Designations on the development of Norwegian food culture are ambiguous. On the one hand it contributes to greater food diversity and a new understanding of food, but on the other hand it contributes to standardisation, innovation, and alienation in Norwegian food and food culture.

47Although food specialisation in Norway has resulted in several changes since its slow introduction in the 1980s, the Norwegian government’s goal, i.e. that 20 percent of food sold to Norwegian consumers should comprise Norwegian food specialties by 2020, is still a long way off. No single agency can be blamed for this, however. Changes in manufacturers' production processes, the supermarket chains’ logistics systems, shelf placement, and consumer purchasing habits do not take place overnight. Such a change can only be realised through considerable effort into the work of adapting Norwegian food culture over time.


48The conclusion of this article is twofold. On an empirical level, I show how PDO and PGI depend on adaptations in order to fit into the Norwegian context and food culture. On a theoretical level I propose an outline for a new conceptual framework, i.e. one substantially related to the Norwegian case but which may be applied to studies of similar schemes in other countries in which PDO and PGI are introduced.

49I have argued that implementation and use of PDO and PGI in Norwegian food culture, is characterised by food Cultural Adaptation Work, i.e., the translation of meanings and the transformation of material properties. CAW is brought into play because Norwegian food culture lacks a concept of terroir and the turn to quality is based primarily on the initiatives of governmental authorities, rather than producers and consumers.

50Further studies on PDO/PGI should focus on Cultural Adaptation Work in order to identify various adaptive practices; to establish how they are related and their implications. The rationale for focusing on adaptive practises is that they have implications for how successful the scheme can be in a given food cultural context and how the food culture develops. Knowledge of the dynamics of food cultural adaptation work is crucial for expansion of the schemes for PDO and PGIs in Europe, and GIs in general.

This article draws on some of the findings in my Ph.D.project, Cultural Adaptation Work (under the supervision of Professor Torben Hviid Nielsen and Research professor Virginie Amilien), and is a revised and expanded version of the article “Der Schutz der geographischen Nahrungsmittelherkunft in Norwegen als Übersetzungs- und Transformationsprozess” (Hegnes, 2010). I would like to thank the two anonymous referees for useful comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank the AoFood editors for their ideas and flexible time frames as well as Andrew G Bell and the AoFood copyeditor, for making the text readable.

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1 Norwegian Minister for Agriculture and Food 2008-2012.

2 Feature article, Local food - National opportunities, in Adresseavisen 13.02.2009 page 35.

3 On a more regional level this marginal Norwegian food cultural evolution should also be regarded as part of the emerging Nordic food landscape. Claus Meyer, co-owner of the Nordic gourmet restaurant Noma (Noma has been awarded with two stars in the Michelin Guide and was awarded the title Best Restaurant in the World in 2010 and 2011 by Restaurant magazine) describes the birth of this new way of preparing food as follows: “Less than 10 months after the opening of our restaurant “Noma” November 2003, head chef, manager & partner Rene Redzepi and I took the initiative to organize “The Nordic Cuisine Symposium”. The day before the symposium September 2004, at an 18 hour long workshop, some of the greatest chefs in our region formulated the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto. The Nordic Cuisine Movement was born!”

4 Norske matspesialiteter.

5 PDO and PGI are examples of Geographical indications (GIs). In the TRIPS agreement, which is part of the global WTO agreements, GIs are defined as: indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin (TRIPS Agreement Article 22 (1)).

6 For a more detailed description of the methodological approach see Hegnes 2013 (forthcoming).

7 24th of October 2003, 13th of February 2004, 19th of March 2007, 18th of May 2007, 1st of January 2010, 17th of December 2010 and 19th of December 2011.

8 (last visited 30.8.2010)

9 Which is also inspired by the French “La Semaine du Goût”.

10 (last visited 30.8.2010)

11 (last visited 30.8.2010)

12 Ringerikserter, Skjenning and Gulløye fra Nord-Norge.

13 Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano.

14 Økologisk Tjukkmjølk fra Røros, Eplejuice frå Hardanger, Fjellmandel fra Oppdal, Hardangereple, Hardangermoreller, Hardangerpærer, Hardangerplommer, Rakfisk fra Valdres, Gamalost frå Vik, Ishavsrøye Vesterålen, Ringerikspotet fra Ringerike, Tørrfisk fra Lofoten, Sider frå Hardanger, Villsau frå Norskekysten and Kurv frå Valdres.

15 Badsturøkt kjøtt på namdalsk vis.

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Electronic reference

Atle Wehn Hegnes, « Introducing and practicing PDO and PGI in Norway  », Anthropology of food [Online], S7 | 2012, Online since 11 January 2013, connection on 22 January 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Atle Wehn Hegnes

University of Oslo Library, Humanities and Social Sciences Library,

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Anthropologie of food est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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