France to do battle for feta

MILLAU, France (AFP) – Thousands of French farmers demonstrated on Saturday against a European Commission decision banning them from using the name «feta» for a type of cheese they produce, as Paris prepared to challenge the ruling. Between 4,000 and 5,000 farmers marched through Millau, according to the organizers, the Federation of Unions of Ewe Farmers (FRSEB). The southern town is the center of France’s sheep cheese production. In a letter sent to the mayor of Millau and obtained by AFP on Saturday, Agriculture Minister Herve Gaymard agreed to fight the ruling by the European Union’s executive arm. «(I) have decided that France will take the case to the European Court of Justice along with Denmark, which will in the next few days seek an annulment of the Commission ruling,» Gaymard wrote. In October, the European Commission acceded to Greece’s long-standing demand and granted the white brine feta cheese a «label of protected origin,» meaning the name «feta» can be used only by farmers in designated parts of Greece using specific methods of production. Greece argued that most feta cheese made outside the country – principally in Denmark and Germany – was produced with cow’s milk and the use of the name was likely to mislead consumers. Denmark has lodged an appeal against the ruling with the European court and a French Agriculture Ministry official confirmed the substance of Gaymard’s letter, saying France would support the Danish move. Veteran anti-globalization campaigner and farmers’ union leader Jose Bove, who hails from Millau, joined the group of unionists and regional government officials at the head of the march. French sheep farmers produce some 12,000 tons of feta a year.

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