Articles

Get GAP for safer food production2017/08/21

The standard helps create a system that provides safe, nutritious, affordable food. It also addresses sustainability issues in agriculture.

By Chan Seng Kit & Isidor Byeong Deok Yu

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standard is understood differently by different actors in food supply chains. Some regard GAP as effective production practices that produce high-yield, high-quality crops with minimum inputs and high returns. Others believe that GAP makes the production of food crops safe for human consumption, hygienic, and sustainable. Some emphasize that the inputs of human resources, crop protection and nutrition, and irrigation must be socially acceptable with positive economic returns and that the impacts of agricultural activities must not result in more stress on the environment.

Cranberry Rinse

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standard is understood differently by different actors in food supply chains. Some regard GAP as effective production practices that produce high-yield, high-quality crops with minimum inputs and high returns. Others believe that GAP makes the production of food crops safe for human consumption, hygienic, and sustainable. Some emphasize that the inputs of human resources, crop protection and nutrition, and irrigation must be socially acceptable with positive economic returns and that the impacts of agricultural activities must not result in more stress on the environment.

With socioeconomic development, consumers are more demanding about the choice and selection of food available to them. They are increasingly making their demands felt downstream in supply chains, compelling stakeholders to confirm to the new requirements. Private retail entities have taken initiatives to improve the quality of the items sold by requiring suppliers to conform to higher standards of produce quality and stricter standards for production processes.

So what exactly is GAP? Basically, it is a set of codes of conduct, standards, and regulations developed by growers’ associations, food processors and retailers, governments, international agencies, and NGOs. The aim is to ensure that food is of the quality required by customers and safe for human and animal consumption. The rationale for the guidelines is science based, and they address environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues.

Assurance of safe food production
The modern food trade system gives consumers the power to determine what is grown, when it is grown, and how it is grown. They demand that produce be of high quality and safe in terms of hygienic production and preparation and free from physical, biological, and chemical contamination. However, with the food chain becoming increasingly complex and competition between food producers and processors in developed and developing economies growing intense, consumers have started to question the assumptions of safe food production.

GAP certification is both voluntary and mandatory. Most national regulatory authorities promote GAP adoption and certification as voluntary schemes for participation by farmers and producers. However, some supermarket chains have made GAP compliance a necessary qualification for their suppliers. Even though compliance is a voluntary decision on the part of farmers and suppliers, it actually serves as an entry barrier for many. While more progressive food producers and farmers may have the capacity to understand GAP requirements and be able to demonstrate compliance, millions of small farmers and rural agribusinesses are unable to comply with the requirements. This prevents them from accessing and selling their produce in more lucrative markets.

Sustainable agricultural production
Does GAP mean no chemicals or fertilizers? As the term suggests, GAP is about good practices and while it allows chemical inputs in farms, it mandates that they should be handled safely without irreversibly damaging the environment. It also requires that their negative impacts must be minimized and not affect the environment outside the farm.

In other words, GAP is about sustainable agriculture or a farming system that provide safe, nutritious, affordable food in ways that conserve the natural environment and resources by optimizing skills and technologies to achieve the long-term productivity and profitability of agricultural enterprises. It also needs to ensure that future generations experience the same satisfactions and choices enjoyed today. The specific environmental concerns addressed by GAP include soil productivity (erosion, depletion of topsoil, desertification), water conservation (depletion, groundwater usage, contamination), pest and disease resistance, the greenhouse gas effect, and climate change.

GAP is also meant to address concerns related to the impact of unhygienic, unsafe food on human health and related socioeconomic issues. In the majority of developing countries in Asia and the Pacific, farm laborers are illiterate and among the lowest-paid members of the workforce. Therefore, it is unlikely that they are able to understand the seriousness of food contamination risks when they do not recognize the chemical and biological hazards underlying contamination.

Modern consumers, however, are influenced by social convictions when they make purchases, especially of food. The price of food at the farm gate, incomes of small and rural farmers, and impacts on the health and welfare of the farmers and their children who are involved in production are now important criteria in the food production process.

Harmonized GlobalGAP certification
With the emergence of many voluntary food safety standards set by supermarket chains and commercial associations, suppliers to food retailers demanded the establishment of a foundation or similar body to oversee harmonization of good farm practices, food-handling controls, and sanitary controls. Such a system needed to be flexible, easily adaptable by farmers and processors, totally transparent, and interlinked with other standards across the industry to generate a dynamic process of control.

The requirement led a group of leading European food retailers to develop EUREPGAP in 1997. In 2007, EUREPGAP changed its name to GlobalGAP to reflect the participation of food producers and retailers worldwide. GlobalGAP created value for agricultural products from the perspectives of sustainability, safety, and social responsibility. It also gave clear definitions of the requirements for practical activities under its Control Points and Compliance Criteria (CPCC). These requirements were based on demands from markets and consumers but reflect the reality of tasks at production sites.

Today, the GlobalGAP standards consist of 218 CPCC that are divided into the four primary areas of food safety, environmental conservation, workers’ health and safety, and traceability in the case of fruit and vegetables. The area of animal welfare was added for livestock and aquaculture. The standards cover all issues of consumer and market demands for sustainable production and take a holistic approach to food values.

GlobalGAP, which is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, also makes efforts to reflect realities onsite in its standards and regulations. This principle is verified by repeated requirements for risk assessments of production site management, hygiene, workers’ safety, food defense, maximum residue limits, water quality, organic fertilizers, irrigation, and drift. Once a risk is assessed as a point to control, the producer must develop action plans to minimize it. Every action by producers is based on risks. Risk assessment is an easy, practical approach to protect products and workers and includes effective corrective actions and methods for improvement. The measures are not expensive or complicated. For example, one recommended GlobalGAP solution to reduce or minimize risk is prompt cleaning up of spills to prevent food contamination.

The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) has conducted numerous workshops, e-learning courses, and training courses to promote GAP awareness and implementation in member countries using the training-of-trainers approach. Those APO projects were aimed at helping participants gain an understanding of GAP concepts, principles, and guidelines by learning about the tools used to explain GAP compliance to farmers. It also developed a GAP manual for trainers’ reference and offers an online self-e-learning course on GAP.

With socioeconomic development, consumers are more demanding about the choice and selection of food available to them. They are increasingly making their demands felt downstream in supply chains, compelling stakeholders to confirm to the new requirements. Private retail entities have taken initiatives to improve the quality of the items sold by requiring suppliers to conform to higher standards of produce quality and stricter standards for production processes.

So what exactly is GAP? Basically, it is a set of codes of conduct, standards, and regulations developed by growers’ associations, food processors and retailers, governments, international agencies, and NGOs. The aim is to ensure that food is of the quality required by customers and safe for human and animal consumption. The rationale for the guidelines is science based, and they address environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues.

Assurance of safe food production
The modern food trade system gives consumers the power to determine what is grown, when it is grown, and how it is grown. They demand that produce be of high quality and safe in terms of hygienic production and preparation and free from physical, biological, and chemical contamination. However, with the food chain becoming increasingly complex and competition between food producers and processors in developed and developing economies growing intense, consumers have started to question the assumptions of safe food production.

GAP certification is both voluntary and mandatory. Most national regulatory authorities promote GAP adoption and certification as voluntary schemes for participation by farmers and producers. However, some supermarket chains have made GAP compliance a necessary qualification for their suppliers. Even though compliance is a voluntary decision on the part of farmers and suppliers, it actually serves as an entry barrier for many. While more progressive food producers and farmers may have the capacity to understand GAP requirements and be able to demonstrate compliance, millions of small farmers and rural agribusinesses are unable to comply with the requirements. This prevents them from accessing and selling their produce in more lucrative markets.

Sustainable agricultural production
Does GAP mean no chemicals or fertilizers? As the term suggests, GAP is about good practices and while it allows chemical inputs in farms, it mandates that they should be handled safely without irreversibly damaging the environment. It also requires that their negative impacts must be minimized and not affect the environment outside the farm.

In other words, GAP is about sustainable agriculture or a farming system that provide safe, nutritious, affordable food in ways that conserve the natural environment and resources by optimizing skills and technologies to achieve the long-term productivity and profitability of agricultural enterprises. It also needs to ensure that future generations experience the same satisfactions and choices enjoyed today. The specific environmental concerns addressed by GAP include soil productivity (erosion, depletion of topsoil, desertification), water conservation (depletion, groundwater usage, contamination), pest and disease resistance, the greenhouse gas effect, and climate change.

GAP is also meant to address concerns related to the impact of unhygienic, unsafe food on human health and related socioeconomic issues. In the majority of developing countries in Asia and the Pacific, farm laborers are illiterate and among the lowest-paid members of the workforce. Therefore, it is unlikely that they are able to understand the seriousness of food contamination risks when they do not recognize the chemical and biological hazards underlying contamination.

Modern consumers, however, are influenced by social convictions when they make purchases, especially of food. The price of food at the farm gate, incomes of small and rural farmers, and impacts on the health and welfare of the farmers and their children who are involved in production are now important criteria in the food production process.

Harmonized GlobalGAP certification
With the emergence of many voluntary food safety standards set by supermarket chains and commercial associations, suppliers to food retailers demanded the establishment of a foundation or similar body to oversee harmonization of good farm practices, food-handling controls, and sanitary controls. Such a system needed to be flexible, easily adaptable by farmers and processors, totally transparent, and interlinked with other standards across the industry to generate a dynamic process of control.

The requirement led a group of leading European food retailers to develop EUREPGAP in 1997. In 2007, EUREPGAP changed its name to GlobalGAP to reflect the participation of food producers and retailers worldwide. GlobalGAP created value for agricultural products from the perspectives of sustainability, safety, and social responsibility. It also gave clear definitions of the requirements for practical activities under its Control Points and Compliance Criteria (CPCC). These requirements were based on demands from markets and consumers but reflect the reality of tasks at production sites.

Today, the GlobalGAP standards consist of 218 CPCC that are divided into the four primary areas of food safety, environmental conservation, workers’ health and safety, and traceability in the case of fruit and vegetables. The area of animal welfare was added for livestock and aquaculture. The standards cover all issues of consumer and market demands for sustainable production and take a holistic approach to food values.

GlobalGAP, which is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, also makes efforts to reflect realities onsite in its standards and regulations. This principle is verified by repeated requirements for risk assessments of production site management, hygiene, workers’ safety, food defense, maximum residue limits, water quality, organic fertilizers, irrigation, and drift. Once a risk is assessed as a point to control, the producer must develop action plans to minimize it. Every action by producers is based on risks. Risk assessment is an easy, practical approach to protect products and workers and includes effective corrective actions and methods for improvement. The measures are not expensive or complicated. For example, one recommended GlobalGAP solution to reduce or minimize risk is prompt cleaning up of spills to prevent food contamination.

The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) has conducted numerous workshops, e-learning courses, and training courses to promote GAP awareness and implementation in member countries using the training-of-trainers approach. Those APO projects were aimed at helping participants gain an understanding of GAP concepts, principles, and guidelines by learning about the tools used to explain GAP compliance to farmers. It also developed a GAP manual for trainers’ reference and offers an online self-e-learning course on GAP.

Kit & YuKit (top) is the Managing Director of K-Farm, Malaysia, and Yu is a Farm Assurer Manager at the Isidor Sustainability Research Institute, Republic of Korea.

 

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