RALEIGH, N.C. — Tequila is legendary for teaching hard lessons, and now it's offering them to communities around the world that produce distinctive foodstuffs, according to an N.C. State University researcher.
Sales of the liquor, a notorious party fuel, have boomed with globalization. The rural parts of Mexico where it is produced, though, are struggling financially and with pollution because of a law that was supposed to protect its origins, according to a study by Sarah Bowen, an assistant professor in NCSU's Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She found that the law does little to protect small farmers and local economies.
The study, co-written with Ana Valenzuela Zapata, a biologist of the University of Guadalajara, and published this month in the Journal of Rural Studies, has implications beyond the Mexican communities where tequila's main ingredient, blue agave, is grown and where the liquor is distilled. It also holds lessons for increasingly popular regulations designed to protect some of the world's most distinctive delicacies.
"There's a lot of great tequila out there, but the rules aren't written in the right way to protect the farmers and the communities," Bowen said.
Such rules and regulations already cover products including wines, vinegars, hams, sausages, olives, beers, and even breads. The likes of Champagne, balsamic vinegar and Gorgonzola cheese can be labeled as such only if they come from a designated region and meet other regulations aimed at preserving their producers and distinctive qualities.
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