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Tequila gives Mexico an environmental hangover

THE benefits of a good name only stretch so far.

A "geographical indication" (GI) that legally ties products like champagne and tequila to their place of origin and cultural heritage does not always help the region it sets out to protect.

Sarah Bowen of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and her colleagues found that tying the making of tequila to the Jalisco region of Mexico has made its production socially and ecologically unsustainable.

Tequila's blue agave plant takes six years to mature, leading to an unstable local supply. This, plus a huge leap in demand for the drink since the 1990s, has driven many liquor companies to grow their own near Jalisco (Journal of Rural Studies, DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.07.003).

This has led to "environmental degradation and the elimination of traditional practices", says Bowen. Tequila - the first GI granted outside Europe - should be a lesson to other poor nations, says Bowen. "The specification of sustainable production practices within [the GI] legal framework is essential," she says.
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