Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 32-38
Published Online January 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Reconciling Safety and Fairness in Global
Agri-Food Standardization
Yuichiro Amekawa
Institute of Biological Science s, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Received September 16th, 2012; revised October 22nd, 2012; accepted November 7th, 2012
Private food safety standards have recently emerged as a dynamic power in the global value chan. Good
agricultural practices (GAP) is one such standard currently gaining popularity as a prominent field-level
food quality assurance system. Achieving private GAP certification, most notably of GlobalGAP, is a dif-
ficult option for low income producers in the Global South due to the high costs required for necessary
investments and certification. This paper critically analyzes the ethical implications of private food safety
standards in light of three theoretical perspectives from environmental sociology: ecological moderniza-
tion, risk society, and eco-socialism. It then examines the potential of public GAP schemes currently
emerging in the Global South for reconciling safety and fairness in global agri-food standardization. It is
suggested that the expansion of producer participation in public GAP program be regulated by gradual
improvements in the state capacity of resource mobilization for auditing and extension institutions.
Keywords: Global Agri-Food Standardization; Food Safety; Fairness; Good Agricultural Practices; Public
Gap Standards
Private standards have recently emerged as a dynamic power
in global agri-food systems. On the supply side, the rapid
growth of Northern retailers in the global value chain and their
submergence in the food industry of the Global South have
entailed the development of standards as tools of coordination
of supply chains that standardize product requirements over
geographically diverse suppliers (Temu & Marwa, 2007). On
the demand side, growing consumer awareness about food sa-
fety in the Global North, mediated by the shifts of their pre-
ferences from packaged goods to various fresh products, has led
major retailers in the North to develop various voluntary food
safety standards (Busch & Bain, 2004).
Green Revolution and genetic engineering biotechnology re-
present a well referenced pair of instrumental power that global
agro-industries have shaped and relied on, thereby having re-
ceived poignant criticisms from the opponents. The rapid de-
velopment of agri-food standards in the global value chain has
not received as much public attention, perhaps due to the less
ostensible nature of institutional innovations and the still lim-
ited scale impact within the conventional regime. It is note-
worthy, however, that they have steadily been challenging and
transforming the mode of production, systems of distribution,
and patterns of consumption in various parts of the globe.
This paper explores the issues of contradiction between food
safety and fairness and its reconciliation, with considerations of
private and public GAP standards. The paper is structured as
follows. Section two reflects on the emerging gap between en-
hancing safety assurance and declining social inclusion in pri-
vate food safety standardization. Section three discusses ethical
implications of private food safety standards. Section four seeks
ways to reconcile safety and fairness in global agri-food stan-
dardization by focusing on the case of the public approach to
food safety standardization. The last section is devoted to con-
Emerging Gap between Safety and Fairness in
Private Food Safety Standardization
Now consider GlobalGAP—the pioneering and most presti-
geious field-level private food safety standards of “Good Ag-
ricultural Practices” (GAP). Originally named EurepGAP, this
private standard has been developed since the late 1990s by the
Euro-Retailers Produce Working Group (EUREP), a consor-
tium of major European retailers. This initiative embraces a
variety of food safety codes of conduct with regard to consumer
food safety, hygiene, labor conditions, animal welfare, as well
as environmental management on the farmland. The standard
protocol initially focused on fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV),
and later covered other crops, aquaculture, and livestock, al-
lowing for certification of integrated management systems. By
December 2010, GlobalGAP has embraced 102,586 certified
growers in 108 countries and 122 independent accredited certi-
fication bodies worldwide (GlobalGAP, 2010). It has become a
global model of field-level food safety standards with which
countries and industries aspire to harmonize existing standards
(Okello & Swinton, 2007).
Dumping and Exclusion of Smallholder Producers in
the Global Va l ue Ch ai n
While GlobalGAP has played innovative roles to improve
and ensure the quality of global food safety assurance system,
there have been emerging concerns raised about its distributive
effects on the upstream supply chain. Stringent compliance
with GlobalGAP (and other harmonized national GAP pro-
grammes benchmarked to GlobalGAP such as ChileGAP and
MexicoGAP) may demand costly investments for upstream
suppliers. These investments relate to technical training for
innovative production and hy giene practices, variable inputs such
as safer yet more costly pesticides, structures such as grading
sheds, charcoal coolers, disposal pits, and pesticide storage
units, as well as periodical certification and accreditation. Con-
sequently, lead buyers in the North rely on economies of scale
by sourcing products from larger and more resourceful export-
ers and growers. By forcing third party certification on up-
stream suppliers, they are able to minimize transaction costs
and financial liability while enhancing credibility of their pro-
duction practices (Okello & Swinton, 2007).
This process of consolidation and concentration of large en-
terprises in GlobalGAP and harmonized programmes leads to
the social cost of marginalizing, removing, or excluding smaller
exporters and growers in the Global South. By way of illustra-
tion, the vegetable export sector in Kenya has been reported to
show that from September 2003 to mid-2006, 60% of the sur-
veyed 9342 small-scale farmers who had been part of the
GlobalGAP operations were dropped by their export company
or withdrawn from compliance schemes (Graffham, Karehu, &
MacGregor, 2007).
In Uganda, the number of small-scale farmers exporting fruit
and vegetables declined from about 2150 in 2005 to about 1260
in 2006 reportedly due to increasing airfreight charges and
stringent requirements of GlobalGAP (Graffham et al., 2007).
In addition, insufficiency of revenues due to the lack of price
premium mechanisms in GAP programmes poses another major
economic risk for small-scale producers participating in those
programmes. The overall absence of a price premium to support
small-scale growers raises questions about their incentives to
participate in GAP standards, given that they tend to be disad-
vantaged in covering additional costs of facility accommoda-
tion, auditing, and certification.
Technical Drawbacks in the Production Process
Another risk for small-scale producers arises from the tech-
nical mismatch between the management measures that private
GAP programmes stipulate and those actually needed to deal
with ecological problems occurring in the field. Graffham and
MacGregor (2007) provide evidence from Zambia that export-
ers would not buy peas from the small farm sector because the
management and controls offered by GlobalGAP were inade-
quate to control the pest problems of the high-risk yet high-
return crop. It was therefore imperative for the exporter to in-
troduce innovative company technologies in the GlobalGAP
scheme. Yet the existing level of financial costs that were al-
ready too high for such additional investments made it prohibi-
tive. Consequently, exporters did not choose to purchase peas
from the small farm sector, which would be to the disadvantage
of the farmers producing it.
Ethical Implications of Private Food
Safety Standards
To gain an informed understanding of the basic characteris-
tics and potential effects of private food safety certification
schemes such as GlobalGAP on the Global South, it may be
illuminating to engage a broader ethical discussion within a
theoretical purview of ecological analysis in social theory.
Three perspectives from environmental sociology, i.e., ecolo-
gical modernization, risk society, and eco-socialism, can be
employed to highlight the ethical implications of private food
safety standardization for modernity, ecology, stratification, and
social change.
In Light of Ecological Modernization Theory
Originally devised by German sociologist Joseph Huber in
the 1980s, ecological modernization theory has been gaining
increasing prominence in northern Europe and elsewhere in
various fields of environmental policy and social science.
Emanated from Huber’s conviction that contemporary envi-
ronmental problems should inescapably be resolved by “super-
industrialization,” this theory envisages an explicit vision of
hyper-modernity: science, industry, and state institutions can
promote emancipation of ecology by means of cleaner tech-
nology and improved eco-efficiencies generating competitive
advantages and a sustained economic growth. Hence, seeing the
ecological challenge “not as a crisis but as an opportunity”
(Blowers, 1997: p. 847), the theory presumes the following set
of prescriptive trajectories: first, the industry should come
ready to assure its ecological responsibility by investing in
developing cleaner, more efficient, and less resource intensive
technologies. Second, the state should adopt more decentralized,
flexible, and consensual styles of governance to render the pri-
vate sector more efficient and effective. Third, the state should
adopt more innovative policy measures (e.g., environmental
taxes, voluntary agreements). Fourth, preventive socio-techno-
logical approaches should replace traditional curative ones from
the design stage of ecological innovation (Cohen, 1997; Mol &
Sonnenfeld, 2000; Murphy, 2000).
The underlying conception and governance of private food
safety measures such as GlobalGAP appears to be consonant
with a notion of ecological modernization as follows. Northern
major retailers advancing in the Global South have benefited
from the opportunity structure created in the neo-liberal milieu
of economic liberalization beginning in the early 1990s. Some
governments in the Global South opened their market along the
GATT/WTO lines, attracted foreign direct investments, and im-
plemented less interventionist measures. Private standards have
come to serve as a competitive instrument for advancing trans-
national supermarket chains by virtue of the regulation systems
that are systematically based on precautionary principles, there-
by ensuring advantages that consumers entertain over traditional
suppliers. In practice, the major retailers seeks to incorporate
into the standards environmentally less harmful agricultural
technologies and practices such as integrated pest management
and integrated crop management, in concert with management
efficient and cost effective specifications for product and deli-
very attributes (Henson & Reardon, 2005). They can ascertain
even more efficiency and quality assurance by rendering certi-
fication and accreditation producers’ liability by mandating them
third-party certification (Graffham & MacGregor, 2007).
On grounds of these congenialities, an ecological moderniza-
tionist view might subscribe to a moral economy perspective of
private food safety standardization: more technologically and
organizationally sophisticated ecological transactions towards
improved food safety, quality management, and environmental
protection through enforcement of food safety standards would
allow major retailers to capture more export markets and profits.
Accordingly, such private food safety measures can act as a
sturdy shield that not only protects the health and safety of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 33
Northern consumers, but also guards Northern retailers and ex-
porting nations from the possibility of a health crisis that could
threaten the global reputation and marketability of their export
products (Henson & Reardon, 2005).
In Light of Risk Society Theory
Ulrich Beck, the German sociologist who has developed risk
society theory, argues that the risk society arises as the second
phase of modernity in which the aging of the industrial para-
digm in the first modernity inevitably leads to catastrophic risks
of global destruction overshadowed by ecological uncertainty
(e.g., nuclear explosion, climate change). The new risks pertain
to the unintended consequences of the very technoeconomic
processes born out in the faith of “progress” to conquer nature
(e.g., hunger, natural disaster)—the paradox Beck has called
“boomerang” (Beck, 1992). The inherently uncertain nature of
these new risks compels experts to disagree over the judgment
of what is “safe” (Henson & Reardon, 2005).
Unlike ecological modernization theory, therefore, risk soci-
ety theory downplays the role of modern industrial institutions
for solving ecological problems. The theory instead emphasizes
the role of “sub-politics”—the core notion of Beck’s evolution-
ary vision of “reflexive modernization” toward a more sustain-
able and just society. Beck places considerable emphasis on the
role of the lay public (i.e., individual citizens, social movement
organizations) in leading sub-politics through activities such as
democratization of technical knowledge, boycotting campaigns,
and so on. As an ecological issue is spatially boundless by na-
ture, so it develops sub-politics beyond geographic boundaries
by voluntary initiatives of “cosmopolitan” allies called “global-
ization from below.” These global coalitions are in opposition
to the so-called “globalization from above,” the centralizing
political economic forces under neo-liberalism (e.g., suprana-
tional institutions and agreements, multinational corporations)
that primarily engage in bringing various resources and the
environment under their control (Beck, 1992).
The political maneuver of risk society perspective highlights
the barely direct, if not absent, mode of commitment by civic
movement components to the design and enforcement of so-
cio-ecological criteria in private food safety measures. These
measures have been developed as preemptive corporate meas-
ures aimed to avert litigious disputes with the general public,
with various preventive devices placed in concert with trace-
ability methods applied ex post facto. Hence, GlobalGAP is
acting as a quasi-minimum quality standard for GAPs that is
primarily concerned with the condition of access to the market
for suppliers (Cordon, Giraud-Héraud, & Soler, 2005). In this
respect, these standards are clearly different from the case of
alternative trading and certification initiatives (e.g., interna-
tional organic and fair trade) that are driven more by civic-
sector involvements. Albeit with the potential risk for appro-
priation by multinational corporate interests (Murray & Ray-
nolds, 2000), the latter initiatives place more weight on filtering
socially construed values such as fairness and/or environmental
conservation into product demand (Barham, 2002).
A reflexive modernization opinion may likewise buttress se-
condary measures in private food safety measures such as
GlobalGAP that could represent consumer support for egalitar-
ian safe food production (e.g., price premiums, “special equity”
labeling). This is unlikely to materialize without an external
stimulus, however, because these measures are driven primarily
by corporate profit motives rationally tied to consumers’ self-
interests in personal health which bypass other altruistic con-
cerns. In addition, the overall techno-administrative approach in
private food safety measures, in particular the techno-scientific
objectivism of third party certification, further attests to the
prevalence of less democratic risk management governmental-
ity (Hatanaka, Bain, & Busch, 2005). Thereby, experts play
predominant roles in determining problems and solutions in
relative isolation from super-industrial interventions. Overall,
the weak civic-sector leverage in the making and operation of
private food safety measures is paralleled by ecological mod-
ernization theory’s “relatively little emphasis on the role of
radical environmental groups or new social movements (NSMs)
in making possible ecological modernization processes” (Buttel,
2000: p. 62).
In Light of Eco-Socialism
Eco-socialism may offer yet another critical perspective on
the potential effects of private food safety measures on the Glo-
bal South. Despite with its broad constituency, eco-socialist
discourse focuses on a socio-ecological critique of capitalism,
in many cases made from an explicit de-modernization per-
spective. It postulates that capital’s unlimited pursuit of wealth
accumulation leads to an escalation of resource exploitation,
wasteful material consumption, and environmental destruction,
possibly to such a catastrophic degree that the very survival of
humankind is threatened. At the center of the environmental
degradation and associated social injustices lie the relations of
domination by the capitalist class over labor and nature (not the
technological imperatives of industrialization as ecological mo-
dernization and risk society theories uphold) (Löwy, 2002).
Eco-socialism thus seeks revolutionary struggles over the he-
gemony of capital by an alliance between the reds (labor move-
ments) and the greens (environmental movements) toward a
new civilization—a classless and ecologically defensible so-
ciety. The painful lesson of the first epoch socialist model (e.g.,
the Soviet regime) enlightens us that democratic worker and
community control over the production of use values (goods
required for the satisfaction of human needs) and the use of
ecologically sound production systems (e.g., solar energy) is
key to actualize such a radical systemic change (Burkett, 2002).
Eco-socialism claims incompatibility with the ecological mo-
dernizationist vision of “green (or sustainable) capitalism” (Fi-
sher & Freudenburg, 2001). The naturalistic, egalitarian, and
utopian views of eco-socialism break with the ecological mod-
ernizationist emphasis on norms such as eco-efficiency, compe-
tition, growth, and profit. As such, an authentic eco-socialist
view may hold the notion of green capitalism as just another
productivism of a revisionist sort veiling some essentially capi-
talistic contradictions in its ecological guise.
Such an eco-socialist line of critique can be captured to serve
the ethical analysis of private food safety measures, possibly on
three dimensions. First, ecological systems deployed in private
food safety measures such as GlobalGAP may end up self-
defeating for capital. James O’Connor (1998) formulated the
thesis of the second contradiction of capitalism, which posits
that in addition to the first contradiction (examined by Marx)
between productive forces (capital’s accumulation imperatives)
and production relations (capital and labor), capitalism gives
rise to the second contradiction between forces of production
and the conditions of production (nature, labor power, and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
socio-infrastructural organization). The second contradiction,
O’Connor argues, points to capital’s destruction and erosion of
its productive base beginning with the natural environment.
This eco-socialist critique of the self-destructive nature of
capitalism may arrest an immanent feature of the corporate
approach to sustainable agriculture which the prominent ag-
roecologist Miguel Altieri calls “input substitution.” This ap-
proach refers to a production strategy that “only emphasizes
environmentally benign alternatives to agrochemical inputs, with-
out challenging either the monoculture structure or the depend-
ence on off-farm inputs that characterize agricultural systems”
(Rosset & Altieri, 1997: p. 283).
The production structure anchored in some large estate agri-
culture in GlobalGAP schemes may be regarded as the variant
of input-substitution involving the use of environmentally be-
nign inputs (e.g., bio-agents, compost). It typically involves
features such as use of extensive land, large machinery and
agrochemicals, as well as dependence on fossil fuels, which all
characterize modern industrial agriculture. Such structural bi-
ases of ecological simplification and genetic homogeneity that
characterize it run the risk of pest resistance and outbreak
(Rosset & Altieri, 1997). The continual capitalist exploitation
of soil, water, and the air through more deliberate use of che-
mical fertilizers manufactured in factories signify the lasting
significance of Marx’s theory of “metabolic rift” (developed by
John Foster and others)—the deep-seated break in the necessary
metabolic cycle between nature and society (Foster, 2000).
These systemic traits are much less characteristic of subsis-
tence-oriented systems prevalent over much of the Global
South that involve small-scale, highly diversified, resource con-
serving, and ecologically sound enterprises. If such an eco-
logical disaster takes place with certain severity and scale, it
suggests a systemic maltreatment of a nd by capital itself.
Second, the concept of the second contradiction of capitalism
directs attention to the contradiction with labor. As exemplified
by GlobalGAP, introduction of many private food safety meas-
ures has resulted in a rapid exclusion of small-scale producers.
Such unfairness rests on firm material bases, such as skyrock-
eting requirements for new investments and recurrent costs in
support of consumer food safety assurance, coupled with the
absence of subsidies and price premium mechanisms to support
small-scale production. An eco-socialist approach may be posi-
tioned to view these circumstances as the product of a serious
institutional flaw of contemporary capitalism rather than a mere
amalgam of material shortcomings. This viewpoint echoes
Blowers’ critique of ecological modernization in that it “fo-
cuses on the economic and technological dimensions; it is
largely innocent of the social context of change and the ethical
issues that are raised” (1997: p. 854), in the sense that capital
fails to develop overarching institutional systems that could
address and resolve the social contradictions that it creates and
to maintain social trust in its own enterprises.
Finally, the global agri-food standardization promoted by
major capitalist interests and the consequent switchover of up-
stream production to larger farms highlights the monopolization
of wealth and power by the Northern minority over the Global
South. Since the early 1980s, Allan Schnaiberg has developed a
neo-Marxist notion of ‘treadmill of production.’ In the treadmill
metaphor, capitalism is perceived as a gigantic production and
accumulation machine that seeks global economic expansion
for the profit of elites; this monstrous machine is, along the way,
steadily bringing the earth’s carrying capacity to its limits
through exploitation of resources and labor as well as environ-
mental destruction. This notion provides eco-socialist thinkers
with a powerful critique of the ecological modernizationist
assumption: greening of capitalism is not the predominant trend
but applies primarily to the experiences of a limited number of
advanced industrial economies (i.e., Germany, Japan, The
Netherlands, and Nordic countries; Cohen, 2006; Langhelle,
2000; Mol & Sonnenfeld, 2000) or even only some sectors or
institutions of these economies through the effects of produc-
tion diversification (York, 2004). Hence, Langhelle notes, “…
ecological modernization has no established relationship either
to the global environmental problems or to social justice. There
are, in fact, no explicit references or connections at all to the
global dimensions of developmental and distributional prob-
lems” (2000: p. 309). Wallis refers succinctly to this aspect of
ecological modernization: “the soundness of the part is over-
ridden by the unsoundness of the whole” (2001: p. 138, empha-
sis in original).
These eco-socialist perspectives may be helpful to infer that
the globalizing private agri-food standardization is being set
primarily for a handful of affluent capitalist nations and busi-
ness elites in the North to accumulate wealth by managing the
very risks they have produced on the global scale (e.g., chemi-
cal pollution). This is done at the expense of reviving the clas-
sical problem of class, inequality, and North-South dependency
in its updated forms.
Reconciling Safety and Fairness in Global
Agri-Food Standardization
How to achieve compatibility between safety and fairness
remains a pressing yet difficult question on both ethical and
technical dimensions of global agri-food standardization. Pri-
vate food safety standards such as GlobalGAP have placed
emphasis on upgrading the social and technological organiza-
tion to ensure the safety of food and employed producers yet at
the cost of rising expenditures and exclusion of less powerful
stakeholders in the upstream supply chain. Alternative ap-
proaches do exist, however, which place more weight on the
inclusion of a large number of small-scale producers.
Thailand’s Q-GAP Programmeme
Take the example of Thailand’s Q-GAP (Q denotes “qual-
ity”). This is one of the public GAP programmes that the gov-
ernments in ASEAN (the Association of South-East Asian Na-
tions) nations have developed since around the turn of the mil-
lennium. These public GAP schemes in the region, including
Indon-GAP (Indonesia), Singapore GAP-VF, Malaysian SALM,
Q-GAP (Thailand), and Philippine-GAP, should not be con-
flated by private-driven national standards that have bench-
marked with GlobalGAP, such as ChileGAP and ThaiGAP
(Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, 2006).
Thai government established Q-GAP in 2003 and began to
implement it in 2004. Designed pri marily as a public food safety
certification programme, the uniqueness of the programme lies
in the organizational system: producers without any member-
ship of a producer organization but applying for the public GAP
programme are organized into a group of twenty members
called farmer field schools (FFS) in order to facilitate farmer-
to-farmer extension. Thai government provides technical assis-
tance related to training, certification, and accreditation for
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 35
producers basically for free. As a result, by 2010 approximately
212,000 farm households had been certified of 128 fresh fruits
and vegetables over a crop area of 225,000 hectares (equivalent
to 3.7% of Thailand’s farm households and 1.2% of the na-
tion’s arable and permanent cropland area) (Schreinemachers et
al., 2012). The public accomplishment of fairness regarding the
massive inclusion of small-scale producers in Thailand’s Q-
GAP becomes apparent as it is compared with GlobalGAP
which has certified about 102,000 producers in 108 countries
during the last decade of its implementation (GlobalGAP, 2010).
Recent studies on the implementation of Q-GAP in Thailand
inform, however, that the safety assurance system deployed in
Q-GAP, along with other attributes concerned with good agri-
cultural practices, is far from thorough as compared with that
prepared in private GAP schemes such as GlobalGAP. Com-
paring the intensity of pesticide use between 45 Q-GAP certi-
fied and 245 non-certified fruit and vegetable growers in a wa-
tershed of northern Thailand, Schreinemachers et al. (2012)
found that there are no significant statistical differences be-
tween those types of growers with regard to the amount of pes-
ticides used, methods of pest control, and pesticide handling. In
violation with official Q-GAP guidelines, farmers were not
provided with training in integrated pest management; the
auditor informed the farmers about the audit in advance; and
the auditing was done once instead of three times as prescribed,
taking as little as five minutes per farm. Studying 67 Q-GAP
certified pummelo growers in two communities of northeastern
Thailand, Amekawa (In Press) observed that about half of the
interviewed producers could not correctly identify the rationale
of the Q-GAP program. The majority of the growers did not
regularly practice record keeping either. Moreover, most of the
growers who reported a reduction in their pesticide use in years
after they began to participate in Q-GAP attributed it to the
growth stage of pummelo rather than the effect of Q-GAP certi-
These studies suggest that it is not difficult for Q-GAP ap-
plicant producers to pass the public certification without chang-
ing their conventional, agrochemical-driven production prac-
tices. This laxness is reflected in the compliance criteria: for
vegetable and fruit farmers to get certified, while Q-GAP only
requires 51% of compliance for 84 total control points,
GlobalGAP requires 100 % of compliance for 74 points and 90%
for 125 points, with the total required control points of 236
(including 37 recommended points) (GlobalGAP, 2007). The
relative looseness of Q-GAP in compliance criteria would not
allow it to capture the equal credibility as enjoyed in inter-
national markets of the private GAP certified products.
Policies and Practices Needed to Reconcile Safety and
Fairness in Public GAP Approaches
As shown, reconciling safety and fairness in global agri-food
standardization is not an easy balancing act. Starting low and
gradually raising the bar of food safety assurance while training
and certifying an expanding body of smallholder producers
remains a possible option, however. Such a gradual process
would be facilitated if the following policies and practices are
to be accompanied.
Regarding the core government policy reformulation:
In the initial phase of the introduction of a public GAP
scheme, it is important to limit the number of participant
producers while taking sufficient time and allocating enough
resources to build the firm training basis for the auditing
body as well as the growers being audited. Achieving social
justice in certification by allowing the participation of a fair
number of resource poor producers is of critical importance
in the context of the developing world. For the short term,
however, appropriate training of professional/volunteer au-
ditors and participant producers should be given a priority
to maintain the long term goal of ensuring the integrity of
the national policy and its domestic and international credi-
bility. The importance of training is enormous given the
current state of limited producers’ understanding of GAP
requirements, poor record keeping, and low motivation/in-
centives to implement GAP concepts. The training process
should go hand in hand with upgrading the stringency in
compliance requirements of the GAP standards.
Public GAP standards should pay greater attention to the
effects of agrochemical hazards on producers’ health and
the environment. The present system of the regulation fo-
cuses almost exclusively on the issues of food safety. The
emphasis of pesticide control is placed on the use during the
period immediately prior to harvest. When the produce is
yet immature, the amount of pesticides used can be uncon-
trolled and thus significant, therefore, causing considerable
negative repercussions on producers’ health and the envi-
ronment. Lack of monitoring on the methods of protection
of pesticide applicators from pesticide hazards remains a
serious problem. Contamination of pesticides in the envi-
ronment is posing threats to local people who, for instance,
eat fish or insects caught locally or who play in chemi-
cal-polluted ponds or rivers. In public GAP regulations,
therefore, stronger focus needs to be placed on producers’
health and the environment.
Public universities with department of agriculture/ecology
are to be encouraged to establish crop/context specific IPM
methods that are low cost, effective, and feasible for local
producers involved in public GAP certification. The role of
university in both developing and developed countries has
been focused narrowly on industrial agriculture technolo-
gies related to Green Revolution and biotechnology. Univer-
sity has a potential to develop agroecologically-oriented
IPM methods, however. The potential can materialize if the
government places public universities in line with the pub-
lic GAP programme. The process of dissemination of de-
veloped IPM methods should involve collaboration with
local public extension and producer groups.
Regarding the promotion of partnership between public and
other sectors:
Public GAP enterprises can be developed to produce pesti-
cide-free or chemical-free commodities. The production can
gain integrity and efficiency based on the mutual learning
through FFS activities. The products can be exported through
international fair trade whereby minimum farm-gate prices
and price premiums are guaranteed. By engaging domestic
exporters, foreign importers, and retailers in this poten-
tially profitable business model, the GAP enterprises could
be developed as a viable model of international private-
civic partnership.
With respect to mainstream domestic marketing, policy
planners could add to a public GAP programme some ver-
sions of geographical indications (GIs) that are developed
through direct involvement by local governments and com-
munities. GIs place emphasis on specific place or territory
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
of which specific cultural, social, and environmental con-
texts come to the fore of production and marketing. Uni-
que regional or local agroecological contexts of produc-
tion and adopted environmental innovations such as locally
invented EM (denoting “effective microorganisms”—a
compost made up of fermented fruit, vegetables, food resi-
dues, and others using microbial enzymatic activity) may
make some FFV products unique local/regional brands dif-
ferentiated through a public GAP scheme. Certified groups
of producers may commercially benefit from certification
through increased prestige of their products or a premium
granted to them, thus offsetting the externalities accruing in
practising alternative production. It is worth noting that this
direction towards GIs is consistent with the ongoing trend
of rural decentralization in many devel opmen t countr ies.
A multiplication of FFS initiatives on irrigated rice fields
under the public GAP framework could improve the agro-
ecology of rice farming with relatively low costs. Evi-
dence suggests that rice farming in irrigated areas is advan-
tageous for lowering the use of insecticides and increasing
yields without significant economic losses, investments in
bio-control production, and learning costs related to moni-
toring techniques (Way & van Emden, 2000). An increase
in IPM-oriented FFS activities integrated in a public GAP
programme will thus contribute to the livelihoods of re-
source poor farmers through the improved efficiency in
household production, sale, and financing.
In the domestic marketing of public GAP certified products,
government agencies in charge of agricultural marketing
should provide in close association with local producer
groups institutional venues for those products to be directed
more effectively to domestic superm ar ke ts . Th is w il l he lp to
limit the current activities of private intermediary dealers in
dictating the local agricultural marketing to the disadvan-
tage of resource poor producers. By selling public GAP cer-
tified products to supermarkets, the producers should be
enabled to receive higher farm gate prices than non-GAP
certified products.
This paper has examined issues of contradictions between
food safety and fairness and their reconciliation with regard to
private and public GAP standards. In response to rising con-
sumer concerns about food safety, private GAP standards such
as GlobalGAP and other programmes benchmarked with it have
emerged since the late 1990s as a key mechanism of global
trade. Their relatively high levels of stringency in compliance
and required costs pose a potential that they not only work
against low income countries as a trade barrier for export, but
also prohibit resource poor farmers and small-scale exporters to
participate in the lucrative sector of global value chains. Cur-
rently, therefore, private GAP approaches exhibit the tendency
to prioritize food safety over the concerns of social inclusion.
On the other hand, since the turn of the millennium public
GAP standards have come into force in ASEAN countries. Due
to their relatively low levels of stringency in compliance and
required costs, these GAP standards embrace a potential to
encourage a broad cohort of small-scale, resource poor produc-
ers to be involved in mainstream markets, both domestic and
international. Public GAP approaches may thus be more capa-
ble of ensuring fairness at some sacrifice of food safety and
In the current configuration of the global GAP regime, re-
conciliation of safety and fairness is a necessary yet painstaking
task. Public GAP standards would be better qualified to pursue
the middle ground than private GAP standards because of the
interests of the governments in national public welfare; the
for-profit rationalization tendency of private GAP programmes
is in stark opposition to meeting the social justice goal of in-
cluding many resource poor producers in certification. It is
important for the governments involved in public GAP pro-
grammes to take sufficient time to increase the number of certi-
fied producers by gradually raising the level of stringency of
control points. In doing so, it is critical for them, as suggested
by Schreinemachers et al. (2012), to allocate adequate resources
for strengthening the base of auditing institutions and local
extension networks involved, thus moving the programmes be-
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