Standard setting and certification for integrated production

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Integrated production or Integrated Crop Management (ICM), though much used and debated, is not easily defined. This production method could be considered as a stepwise implementation of a range of agricultural practices that more or less radically diverge from conventional agriculture. ICM aims to minimise the use of fertilisers and pesticide products by favouring other measures such as natural predators, crop rotation and mechanical weeding. Pests need not be eliminated, but rather kept under control, at levels below which they cause economic damage. In this manner it encompasses the earlier concept of 'integrated pest management' (IPM) (Perkins 1982).

In a study which gives an overview of ICM practices in Europe, it was concluded that most programmes have the following common elements (EUREP 1998):

• application of only registered pesticides

• preference for non-chemical measures

• optimisation of pesticide use

• strict documentation

• regular controls.

Supporters of ICM see it as a 'quiet revolution', winning the best of both worlds by marrying organic techniques with the option of chemicals if things go wrong; others consider it a half-way house, and sceptics argue that without (legally) binding rules, ICM can mean more or less anything (see Browne et al. 1999; Morris & Winter 1999).

Switzerland is the country of origin of ICM, as in 1978 the SAIO working group was established which aimed at the development of standards for integrated production of fruit (EUREP 1998). Several countries followed the Swiss example, but it was only in the late 1980s that production under ICM became a serious undertaking. In that period several ambitious programmes were set up and accompanying certification schemes were developed. Among the most remarkable examples in the field are the programmes developed in Switzerland, the UK, Italy and The Netherlands. Table 12.2 provides an overview of these programmes and a few of their characteristics. Some of them will be dealt with more extensively later in the chapter, where specific initiatives in the respective countries are highlighted.

Table 12.2 ICM-initiatives in four European countries (based on Eurep 1998).

Country

Initiative

Initiator

Starting year

Italy

Almaverde

Large growers' organisation Apofruit

1987

Prodotti con Amore

Retailer Coop

1988

Progetto Qualità

Retailer Conad

n.a.

Naturama

Retailer Esselunga

n.a.

Regional trademarks

Regional growers' organisations

Varies

Netherlands

Milieubewuste Teelt

Growers' organisation

1990

Aarde & Waarde

Retailer Albert Heijn

1991

AgroMilieukeur

Semi-governmental organisation

1993

Switzerland

SAIO- guidelines and minimum

Schweizerischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft

1978

standards for the production of

für integrierte Obstproduction

fruit

(SAIO)

SOV labelling scheme

Schweizerischen Obstverband (SOV)

1990

Okoplan

Retailer Coop

n.a.

M-Sano

Retailer Migros

n.a.

UK

Assured Produce

Partnership of National Farmers'

1991

Union and seven retailers

In 1997, a group of thirteen large European retailers founded the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group (EUREP), with the aim of making a first step towards European-wide harmonisation of minimum standards for production under ICM (EUREP 1998). It introduced the EUREPGAP protocol in 2001, which contains the basic requirements for Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) for fruits and vegetables. EUREP

expects to develop additional protocols for flowers and ornamentals, livestock, combinable crops and feed.

The membership of EUREP consists of three groups, including retail members, supplier members and associate members. Among the supplier members are growers and growers organisations from all continents. The group of associate members is of a varied composition, including certification bodies, consulting firms and the crop protection industry. As is shown in Table 12.3, the retail membership of EUREP has quickly expanded and now consists of 22 retailers from ten European countries (http://www.eurep.org, 9 October 2001). In the course of the years 2000 and 2001, Asda (UK), Coop Norway (No), Eroski (Sp), Marks and Spencer (UK), Somerfield (UK), Superquinn (Ire), Superunie (NL), and Trade Service Netherlands BV (NL) became new members. The two French participants (Continent and Promodès), though, discontinued their membership in 2001, and some other countries, for example Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, are not involved at all. Taken together, the 22 retailers are a significant market player in the European market for fruits, vegetables and potatoes, as their current sales amount to more than 25% of the European total (http://www.nak.nl, 6 September 2000).

Table 12.3 Membership of EUREP, October 2001 (http://www.eurep.org, 9 October 2001).

1.

Ahold (NL)

12.

Laurus (NL)

2.

Albert Heijn (NL)

13.

Marks and Spencer (UK)

3.

Asda (UK)

14.

Safeway (UK)

4.

COOP Italia (It)

15.

Sainsbury's (UK)

5.

COOP Norway (No)

16.

Somerfield (UK)

6.

Delhaize "Le Lion" (Be)

17.

Spar Österreich (Au)

7.

DRC / Belgium Austion Market (Be)

18.

Superquinn (Ire)

8.

Eroski(Sp)

19.

Superunie (NL)

9.

ICA (Sw)

20.

Tesco (UK)

10.

Kesko (Fi)

21.

Trade Service Netherlands BV (NL)

11.

Kooperativa Forderbund (KF) (Sw)

22.

Waitrose (UK)

The UK is especially strongly represented in EUREP, since four of its largest supermarket chains were original members and three others joined later. In addition, EUREP's chairman is provided by the British retailer Safeway. So it may not be surprising that the basic idea of establishing EUREP has come from the UK. British retailers participating in the Assured Produce Scheme in the UK have taken the lead in the EUREP initiative because they aimed to impose similar standards on overseas suppliers as they already did on national suppliers (EUREP 1998). Their interest in doing so is strongly linked to the entry into force of the Food Standards Act of 1990 which placed an increased liability on British retailers and food producers for the activities of other participants in food supply chains.

The present success of the EUREP initiative, including outside the UK, may be due (according to the organisation itself) to the fact that retailers are resourcing globally and are facing increasing competition, pressure on profitability and an ever-tightening regulatory environment (http://www.eurep.org, 9 October 2001). In addition food safety has become a top priority for many retailers. EUREP, therefore, estimates that its prospects for growth are 'quite outstanding'. It has the ambition to become the global player in agricultural production standards and verification frameworks for fruits and vegetables.

As already mentioned, the focus of EUREP activities is the EUREPGAP protocol for fresh fruits and vegetables. The protocol should be regarded as a basic standard. Each participating retailer can additionally use individual standards, which might be more stringent (EUREP 1998). The GAP protocol is seen as a benchmark to assess current practice, and provide guidance for further development. It will be subject to future amendments.

The protocol itself contains two lists: one of required measures (the 'musts') and one of encouraged measures (the 'shoulds') (http://www.eurep.org, 9 October 2001). Concerning pesticide use, the 2001 version of the protocol includes the following items: basic elements of crop protection; choice of chemicals; advice on quantity and type of pesticide; records of application; safety, training and instructions; protective clothing and/or equipment; pre-harvest interval; spray equipment; disposal of surplus spray mix; pesticide residue analysis; pesticide storage; empty pesticide containers; and obsolete pesticides. The requirements regarding four of these items are here further explained:

(1) Basic elements of crop protection: 'Protection of crops against pests, diseases and weeds must be achieved with the appropriate minimum pesticide input. Wherever possible growers must apply recognised IPM techniques on a preventive basis. Non-chemical pest treatments are preferred over chemical treatments.'

(2) Choice of chemicals: 'The crop protection product utilised must be appropriate for the control required. Growers must only use chemicals that are officially registered in the country of use and are registered for use on the crop that is to be protected, where such official registration scheme exists, or, in its absence, complies with the specific legislation of the country of destination. A current list of all products that are used and approved for use on crops being grown must be kept. This list must take account of any changes in pesticide legislation. Chemicals that are banned in the European Union must not be used on crops destined for sale in the European Union. Growers must be aware of restrictions on certain chemicals in individual countries.'

(3) Records of application: 'All applications of pesticides must always include: crop name, location, date of application, trade name and name of operator. Pesticide application records must also include: reason for application, technical authorisation, quantity of pesticide used, application machinery used and pre-harvest interval.'

(4) Pesticide residue analysis: 'Growers and/or suppliers must be able to provide evidence of residue testing. The laboratories used for residue testing must be accredited by a competent national authority to good laboratory practice (i.e. GLP or ISO 17025).'

Growers and grower organisations need EUREPGAP approval. This approval can only be achieved through independent verification by a national inspection or certification body that needs to be accredited (http://www.eurep.org, 6/9/2000). Full compliance of all 'musts' is necessary for approval. At first, the expectation was that the first growers would be approved around June 2000, but this was delayed because of unresolved legal issues concerning accreditation (http://www.eurep.org, 21 September 2000). All approved growers and grower organisations will have the right to use the EUREPGAP logo, as a means of communication in the business-to-business area and not (yet) designed to be used in the communication with the final consumer. The first approvals were expected before the end of 2001.

During the process of elaborating standards, EUREP has sought, and received, support from the European Commission. A clear sign of the Commission's interest is the fact that Community officials deliver speeches at EUREP conferences. In the future, it should not be considered unthinkable that financial support to farmers will be made dependent on compliance with EUREPGAP standards, and that the Commission will use the EUREPGAP protocol as a basis for Community framework legislation comparable to that for organic agriculture. Table 12.4 summarises the development of standard setting and certification for ICM.

Table 12.4 Development of standard setting and certification for ICM.

Year Event

End 1970s Introduction of integrated production

Start 1980s Establishment of several national and regional initiatives

End 1980s First ICM-labelled products

1997 Foundation of EUREP

2001 Publication of EUREPGAP protocol

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