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Letter from the editor | 309

Coffee, wine, açaí

It has long been known that local soil and climate characteristics, combined with cultivation and manufacturing techniques, result in unique attributes for certain agricultural or food products. There are records of this dating back to the fifth century BC, such as references to wine from the Greek island of Chios, considered a luxury item in Ancient Greece.

It was in Europe that the concept of a geographical indication (GI) was established, and the continent now has more than 3,200 GIs, representing a highly valuable market. Indicating that certain products have a specific geographic origin that give them certain qualities, characteristics, and reputation is an important marketing tool, but it is also useful for public policy.

The GI is a type of intellectual property based on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), approved by the member nations of the World Trade Organization in 1994 and introduced in Brazil two years later through Industrial Property Law 9.279/96. This issue’s cover story describes the first Brazilian GI recognized in 2002—the production of wines in Vale dos Vinhedos in the Serra Gaúcha. Since then, 88 GIs have been created for food, beverages, handicrafts, gemstones, and even services.

Açaí, which is consumed across Brazil and exported to many countries, still does not have a recognized geographical indication. The huge demand for this flavorsome, high-energy, antioxidant fruit could have negative consequences on the environment, as explained in an article on page 58. Primarily grown in Pará, its intensive production reduces biodiversity and damages the ecosystem services provided by floodplain forests on the banks of rivers where the açaí palm is usually cultivated.

Crossing Pará from east to west is the Trans-Amazonian highway, inaugurated nearly 50 years ago during the military dictatorship, which was built to help populate and connect the North and Northeast to other regions of the country. Remembered as an example of the decadent construction projects of the period, the road did not achieve its aims and the environmental, human, and financial costs were high. Without wishing to downplay its negative legacy, anthropologist Roberto Santos Júnior highlights a little-known benefit: the highway led to the creation of well-organized small farming communities. In an interview, the Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará researcher says that these communities have developed more environmentally sustainable ways of growing crops such as cocoa.

Mathematics is one of the most difficult fields to cover in scientific journalism, both because of the obstacles and difficulties faced by many researchers in the field and because of its high level of abstraction and complexity. So when the opportunity arose to interview mathematician Marilda Sotomayor and to bring our readers closer to the world of numbers, we took it with both hands. Sotomayor specializes in matching markets, a branch of game theory in which players work cooperatively within a set of determined rules. Given its important potential applications, it is no surprise that matching theory was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2012—and Sotomayor wrote a book that she considers the most important work of her career with one of the recipients, Alvin Roth.