In the agricultural economics literature geographical indications (GI) keep being a contentious issue in trade negotiations. Also the recent proposal of the European Commission “for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on agricultural product quality schemes” (COM(2010)733final) with a special session dedicated to GI does not seem to solve the legitimation problems intrinsic within the GI regime. An increasing number of scholars warn for the governance challenges that this situation can generate and advocate a more in-depth analysis of the rationale of GI in order to improve its understanding and derive recommendations for inhancing transparency. This project builds a conceptual framework which juxtaposes two different legitimation theories, i.e., the “social conservation theory” and the “social constituing theory”. The former focuses on the “heritage setting“ of a region which forms its territorial culture. The ratio of the European legal system on GI is based on this theory as it acknowledges the genius loci of a region by including it into a legal frame. A contrasting approach is given by the “social constituing theory” which premises that the set of traditions is part of a dynamic process which boosts awareness of culinary traditions from the moment of its legal recognition. Different actors take an active role (NGO, farmers’ consortia, etc.) to this constituing process. For an illustration of the model, two types of food specialties in Italy and Germany are portrayed using an interdisciplinary and dynamic perspective. All in all, the analysis of the cases aims at identifying the core elements of both theories, dependent upon specific circumstances.