Word Battles: Who Gets to Call their Honey Manuka?

The great manuka honey debate between Australian and New Zealand continues.

Bees make manuka honey from the nectar of Leptospermum scoparium (Tea Tree) flowers. While one variety of the plant is endemic to New Zealand, Australia reportedly has over 80 of its own. Mānuka (spelled with the Māori macron) is the Māori term for the plant.  Although, as The Conversation pointed out last month, the debate seems to have left out Māori interests entirely.
It’s complicated. New Zealand industry claims significant investment into developing the market. But Australia has long used the name for our own Tea Tree honeys. Now New Zealand feels that Australian manuka is “riding on the backs” of their efforts. At least, this is the mood the media captures (and that they’re still sore about pavlova and Phar Lap too).
The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) released this press release in June. Included was this response from Paul Callander, Chairman of the AMHA:
“We would much prefer to work with New Zealand in partnership than argue about a descriptive term. As long as Australia is allowed to use the term ‘Australian Manuka’, we have no issues and would work with New Zealand to commit to a co-funded global marketing campaign telling the world about the health benefits of Manuka from both Australia and New Zealand”.
Interestingly, the US IP office has now twice rejected the NZ application on the basis that ‘Manuka’ is a descriptive term only, indicating the honey is derived from Leptospermum–regardless of the region.

Warring over a Word – The Story So Far.

April 2017: The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in New Zealand releases a scientific definition to authenticate mānuka honey. This seems in part a reaction to the “great manuka honey swindle” controversy in the UK.
August 2017: New Zealand works on tests to define manuka honey as a New Zealand product. But there is disagreement over how to do this.
September 2017: The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society Inc (NZ) files for a certification trademark for the term mānuka honey. It files in New Zealand, Australia and the UK
October 2017: The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) forms.
December 2017: The trademark office in the UK hands down its decision in favour of New Zealand.
March 2018: The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) accepts the term “mānuka honey” as a proposed certification mark. The Australian Federal Government grants AMHA $165,000 to promote and protect Australian manuka honey overseas.
April 2018: The AMHA establishes strict, scientific guidelines to certify Australian Manuka honey.
May 2018: The AMHA and leading scientists establish a set of standards for Australian mānuka honey.
July 2018: The AMHA files to protect its name.

November 2018: The Conversation publishes an article highlighting that the debate ignores Māori interests. There is disagreement within Māoridom about who has jurisdiction over mānuka.

No doubt, this story will be continued…

manuka honey debate image


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