The regulations concerning products of "Appellation d'Origine Controlée" (AOC) refer to accepted and established local customs. By "customs" is meant the collection of practices, which have been validated by past-experience and by the participants engaged in the establishment of AOC production. In France, the law confers on the lnstitut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) the responsibility of determining which of these customs deserve definition under AOC regulations of each product. The accession of Martinique rum to the AOC system illustrates how the transition from a standardised industrial process to a one that takes full account of the intrinsic qualities and variability of raw materials requires continual innovation in : - The organisation of relations among producers of the raw material, sugar cane, and between these producers and other participants in rum production ; - The quality and quantity control procedures used at each stage of the production process; - The methods of farming, manufacture and commercialisation. For AOC products, tradition is based on the search for quality and character and incorporates yearly variation of the characteristics of raw materials. Within this framework, continual innovation transforms into an asset the same variation that is considered a handicap in standard industrial processes. To do so requires scientific research that runs against the technological trend that seeks liberation from the uncertainty associated with agricultural production. The innovations resulting from this research reflect a strategy that values the initial, variable qualities of raw materials at each stage of the manufacturing process, rather than one that corrects or compensates for the properties of standardised raw materials.


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