Good agricultural practice (GAP) are specific methods which, when applied to agriculture, create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome. While there are numerous competing definitions of what methods constitute good agricultural practice there are several broadly accepted schemes that producers can adhere to.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations GAP
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) uses good agricultural practice as a collection of principles to apply for on-farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products, while taking into account economical, social and environmental sustainability.
GAPs may be applied to a wide range of farming systems and at different scales. They are applied through sustainable agricultural methods,
GAPs require maintaining a common database on integrated production techniques for each of the major agro-ecological area (see ecoregion), thus to collect, analyze and disseminate information of good practices in relevant geographical contexts.
United States Department of Agriculture GAP/GHP Program
The United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service currently operates an audit/certification program to verify that farms use good agricultural practice and/or good handling practice. This is a voluntary program typically utilized by growers and packers to satisfy contractual requirements with retail and food service buyers. The program was implemented in 2002 after the New Jersey Department of Agriculture petitioned USDA-AMS to implement an audit based program to verify conformance to the 1998 Food & Drug Administration publication entitled, "Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables."
The program has been updated several times since 2002, and includes additional certification programs such as commodity specific audit programs for mushrooms, tomatoes, leafy greens, and cantaloupes. In 2009, USDA-AMS participated in the GAPs Harmonization Initiative which "harmonized" 14 of the major North American GAP audit standards, which in 2011 resulted in the release and implementation of the Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard.
Demand for agricultural crops is expected to double as the world's population reaches 9.1 billion by 2050. Increasing the quantity and quality of food in response to growing demand will require increased agricultural productivity. Good agricultural practices, often in combination with effective input use, are one of the best ways to increase smallholder productivity. Many agribusinesss are building sustainable supply chains to increase production and improve quality.
- Practice scheduled irrigation, with monitoring of plant needs, and soil water reserve status to avoid water loss by drainage
- Prevent soil salinization by limiting water input to needs, and recycling water whenever possible
- Avoid crops with high water requirements in a low availability region
- Avoid drainage and fertilizer run-off
- Maintain permanent soil covering, in particular in winter to avoid nitrogen run-off
- Manage carefully water table, by limiting heavy output of water
- Restore or maintain wetlands (see marshlands)
- Provide good water points for livestock (FAO : GAP : FAO GAP Principles : Water)
- Harvest water in situ by digging catch pits, crescent bunds across slope
Animal production, health and welfare
- Respect of animal well-being (freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress)
- Avoid nontherapeutic mutilations, surgical or invasive procedures, such as tail docking and debeaking;
- Avoid negative impacts on landscape, environment and life: contamination of land for grazing, food, water and air
- Check stocks and flows, maintain structure of systems
- Prevent chemical and medical residues from entering the food chain
- Minimize non-therapeutic use of antibiotics or hormones
- Avoid feeding animals with animal wastes or animal matter (reducing the risk of alien viral or transgenic genes, or prions such as mad cow disease),
- Minimize transport of live animals (by foot, rail or road) (reducing the risk of epidemics, e.g., foot and mouth disease)
- Prevent waste run-off (e.g. nitrate contamination of water tables from pigs), nutrient loss and greenhouse gas emissions (methane from cows)
- Prefer safety measures standards in manipulation of equipment
- Apply traceability processes on the whole production chain (breeding, feed, medical treatment...) for consumer security and feedback possibility in case of a food crisis (e.g., dioxin).FAO : GAP : FAO GAP Principles : Animal Health and Welfare
Healthcare and public health
- "Good Agricultural Practices Manual". Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland. August 2010. Archived from the original on 22 June 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012. (Free download)
- Luning, edited by P. A.; Devlieghere, F.; Verhé, R. (2006). Safety in the agri-food chain. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-76998-77-9. OCLC 60375200.