The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory


Good Agricultural Practices and GAP Certification

Cayce Watts

Nutrition 245

Spring 2012

What are Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?

Good Agricultural Practices are differing sets of codes, standards and regulations developed by governments, NGOs and the private sector.1 These regulations are designed to improve the sustainability of agriculture in a variety of ways including conserving natural resources, improving food quality and safety as well as improving workers’ conditions and safety, creating new market opportunities for farmers and improving traceability.2 The regulations can be voluntarily adopted by farmers and other producers or suppliers along the food chain. These regulations apply to areas including crop irrigation water, manure and municipal bio solids, worker health and hygiene, field and forest sanitation, postharvest water during packing, transportation, and storage and distribution.3

How is GAP certification awarded?

Different organizations offer GAP certifications. Among the most well-known GAP certifications are the USDA GAP certification and EUREGAP or Global GAP.  Generally, farmers must first implement GAPs in their production processes. Then they must hire a certifier to audit and inspect their production processes and documentation.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services Division provides independent audits of produce suppliers throughout the food production and supply chain to verify adherence to the recommendations outlined in the Food and Drug Administration’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Their website provides a list of participating companies, organized by commodity or state as well as a GAP & GHP Audit Verification Checklist.

A new online tool is available to make it easier for farmers to become GAP certified. The tool is part of FamilyFarmed.org’s On-Farm Food Safety Project and it helps farmers design a customized manual to meet GAP standards and certification requirements by just answering a few questions. Once the farmers have completed their farm’s food safety plan and compiled the necessary documentation, they are eligible to apply for GAP certification.4

Global GAP, formerly known as EUREGAP, is a private sector organization that sets its own voluntary  standards for the certification of agricultural products worldwide. The Global GAP label is not directly visible to consumers because it is a business-to-business label that covers farming activities before the product leaves the farm. Global GAP certification is carried out by independent and accredited certification bodies around the world, a list of which is available on the Global GAP website: http://www.globalgap.org/cms/front_content.php?idcat=30.Producers are inspected annually and also at times which are unannounced.6

While GAP certification is voluntary, many large retail chains like Wal-Mart and Royal Ahold, are requiring that their suppliers are GAP certified by third-party certifiers. In fact, EUREGAP was developed by a group of leading supermarket chains. Third-party certifiers are by definition independent of other members of the food production chain, whereas first-party certifiers are the producers themselves and second-party certifiers are the retailers. Third-party certifiers are thought to be more reliable and objective because they have no vested interest in the outcome of the audit, however this thinking has been brought into question.7

What are the benefits of being GAP certified?

  • Reduce risk that a foodborne illness will originate on the farm and reduce the economic risks associated with an outbreak (catastrophic drops in sales, damage to reputation, lawsuits)8
  • New market opportunities for producers looking to expand sales to major supermarket chains, school systems, restaurants and others who require their suppliers to be GAP certified8
  • Reduce risk of non-compliance with mandatory national and international regulations and standards1

What are the costs associated with becoming GAP certified?

  • Growers who adopt GAPs and other food safety practices do not receive higher prices for their products but may face higher production costs due to the costs of adopting and following GAPs9
  • Financial costs of adopting GAPs, such as water purification equipment or record-keeping technology8
  • Cost of hiring the certifier (for USDA GAP certification, estimated at $92/hr)3
  • Producers often need to be certified for each different product they produce3
  • Adopting and implementing GAPs, as well as gaining GAP certification, is more difficult for small farmers and producers in developing countries because of the necessary financial costs and specialized knowledge 10

References

  1. FAO. Good Agricultural Practices – Introduction. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.fao.org/prods/gap/.
  2. Hobbs, Jill E. (2003, October 24). Incentives for the Adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Background paper for the FAO consultation on Good Agricultural Practices, Rome, November 10-12 2003. Saskatchewan, Canada: University of Saskatchewan.
  3. Curtis, Kynda R. (2010, October) “Direct Marketing Local Foods: Food Safety Considerations.” Finance and Economics, Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.wnc.edu/files/departments/ce/sci/value01.pdf
  4. “Risk management tool helps farmers gain GAP certification.” Western Farm Press [Online Exclusive] 15 Dec. 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Academic OneFile. http://go.galegroup.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA275153897&v=2.1&u=unc_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
  5. USDA – Agriculture Marketing Service. Grading Certification, and Verification: Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Audit Programs. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&page=GAPGHPAuditVerificationProgram.
  6. Global GAP. About Us. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.globalgap.org/cms/front_content.php?idcat=2.
  7. Hatanaka, M. et al. (2005). “Third-party certification in the global agrifood system.” Food Policy 30 (2005) 354-369. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919205000308
  8. “Gap Certification: Is it Worth It?” NC State University & NC A&T State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rmrejesu/Food_Safety_Risk/ag-709%20final%20printed.pdf.
  9. Calvin, L. et al. (2004, December) “The Economics of Food Safety: The Case of Green Onions and Hepatitis A Outbreaks.” VGS-305-01, USDA-Economic Research Service. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://ers.usda.gov/publications/vgs/nov04/VGS30501/VGS30501.pdf
  10. Trienkens, J. and Zuurbier, P. (2007, February 20) Quality and safety standards in the food industry, developments and challenges.” International Journal of Production Economics 113 (2008) 107-122. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092552730700312X

Annotated Bibliography

Amekawa, Yuichiro. (2009, December) “Reflections on the Growing Influence of Good Agricultural Practices in Global South.” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 22: 531 – 557.

This paper discusses the history of EurepGAP (now known as Global GAP) and how its institutional design gives an advantage to larger farms and exporters while disadvantaging smaller producers. It then details the rise of public GAPs, supported by some governments in the South, and champions these public GAPs as a better alternative that encourage inclusion of smaller-scale farms in the push for environmental, social and economic benefits.

Bayramoglu, Z. and Gundogmus, E. (2009, January) “The effect of EurepGAP standards on energy input use: A comparative analysis between certified and uncertified greenhouse tomato producers in Turkey.” Energy Conversion and Management, Vol. 50, Issue 1: 52-56.

This paper discusses the results of an analysis comparing the energy used by tomato producers in Turkey who complied with EurepGAP standards and tomato growers who did not. The analysis found that growers utilizing GAPs used 29% less energy than those who did not use good agricultural practices. This demonstrates that using GAPs is energy efficient, among other benefits.

Calvin, L. et al. (2004, December) “The Economics of Food Safety: The Case of Green Onions and Hepatitis A Outbreaks.” VGS-305-01, USDA-Economic Research Service. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://ers.usda.gov/publications/vgs/nov04/VGS30501/VGS30501.pdf

This paper evaluates the 2004 outbreaks of foodborne illness and its economic effects on farmers. It analyzes the benefits and costs of adopting better food safety practices, including GAPs, and how these benefits and costs are evaluated differently following an outbreak.

Curtis, Kynda R. (2010, October) “Direct Marketing Local Foods: Food Safety Considerations.” Finance and Economics, Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.wnc.edu/files/departments/ce/sci/value01.pdf

This paper discusses food safety issues associated with local foods sold directly to consumers. It evaluates the potential risks and details possible methods for risk reduction, among which are GAPs and GAP certification. It provides a nice, simplified overview of what GAPs are and different types of GAP certifications as well as other labeling and certification programs.

FAO. Development of a Framework for Good Agricultural Practices, Committee on Agriculture, 17th session, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, March 31 – April 4 2003. Retrieved  April 8 2012 from http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/MEETING/006/Y8704e.HTM.

This document is a record of a committee meeting for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations at their 17th session in Rome during March 31 to April 1, 2003. The goal of the meeting was to develop a framework for Good Agricultural Practices. They examined the application of GAPs at that time and then discussed the future of GAPs, specifically defining its principles, indicators and practices.

FAO. Good Agricultural Practices – Introduction. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.fao.org/prods/gap/.

This document, taken from the website for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), defines Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and their goals and provides a list of potential benefits associated with the adoption of GAPs as well as the challenges associated with their adoption.

“Gap Certification: Is it Worth It?” NC State University & NC A&T State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rmrejesu/Food_Safety_Risk/ag-709%20final%20printed.pdf.

This paper evaluates the economic benefits and costs for a farm to become GAP certified with the goal of determining whether or not GAP certification is “worth it.” Important economic benefits include risk reduction and improved market access, while costs include the upgrades and education necessary to attain the certification and the cost associated with hiring the auditor or certifier. The paper also investigates case studies of how food safety issues related to cantaloupes, spinach, and green onions affected GAP-certified growers compared to non-certified growers.

Global GAP. About Us. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.globalgap.org/cms/front_content.php?idcat=2.

This document is taken from the Global GAP website. It describes who Global GAP is and what their goals and standards are. It provides links to their standards, a list of accredited Global GAP certifiers and details about the certification.

Hatanaka, M. et al. (2005). “Third-party certification in the global agrifood system.” Food Policy 30 (2005) 354-369. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919205000308

This paper discusses the shift in the global agrifood system to using third-party certifiers – “private or public organizations responsible for accessing, evaluating, and certifying safety and quality claims based on a particular set of standards and compliance methods.” It describes various forces that have caused this shift, explains how third-party certification works and argues that third-party certifiers are not necessarily as objective or impartial as they are sometimes made out to be.

Hobbs, Jill E. (2003, October 24). Incentives for the Adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Background paper for the FAO consultation on Good Agricultural Practices, Rome, November 10-12 2003. Saskatchewan, Canada: University of Saskatchewan.

This background paper was written by associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Jill Hobbs. It was written for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations consultation on Good Agricultural Practices in Rome during November 10 – November 12, 2003. It defines Good Agricultural Practices, assesses them as a means for addressing market failure, and examines the incentives and disincentives farmers face in opting to adopt or not adopt GAPs.

“Risk management tool helps farmers gain GAP certification.” Western Farm Press [Online Exclusive] 15 Dec. 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Academic OneFile. http://go.galegroup.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA275153897&v=2.1&u=unc_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

This news article, published online by Western Farm Press, discusses the release of a new online tool designed to make it easier for farmer’s to meet GAP standards and certification requirements. It discusses the USDA’s GAP certification program and describes how the tool is used and how it will benefit farmers.

Tiraieyari, N., et al.  2010. Competencies Influencing Extension Workers’ Job Performance in Relation to the Good Agricultural Practices in Malaysia. American Journal of Applied Science, 7: 1379-1386. Retrieved from Articles Plus. http://thescipub.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/abstract/10.3844/ajassp.2010.1379.1386

This article discusses several competencies deemed necessary for extension workers and how these competencies relate to job performance. They specifically addressed this relation via a random sampling of extension workers in Malaysia and their conformity to good agricultural practices. They found that technical competencies are more important factors for job performance than human development competencies.

Trienkens, J. and Zuurbier, P. (2007, February 20) Quality and safety standards in the food industry, developments and challenges.” International Journal of Production Economics 113 (2008) 107-122. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from Google Scholar. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092552730700312X

This paper discusses how consumer concerns about food safety have resulted in the development of both private and public standards on food safety and quality. It evaluates the difficulties companies in developing countries face in complying with these standards as well as covering the costs of certification and accreditation.

USDA – Agriculture Marketing Service. Grading Certification, and Verification: Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Audit Programs. Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&page=GAPGHPAuditVerificationProgram.

This document, taken from the website for the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, provides information for those looking to be audited or to learn more about the auditing process. The program offers voluntary, independent audits of produce suppliers to verify that GAPs, as defined by the FDA, are used in the production, packaging, handling and storage of fresh fruits and vegetables. Adherence to these practices minimizes risks of microbial contamination and food safety hazards. Audit checklists and lists of companies which have been audited are available on the website as well. 

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