There is a food certification system which is not known to the consumers. It concerns fruit and vegetable farmers, wholesalers and the conventional retail trade (supermarkets) : Global GAP.
It means “Good Agricultural Practice”.
This certification and control system is the answer to the problems revealed by the investigations on the pesticide exposure of food.
Unlike many German certificates it does not only soothe the consumers – like “QS” does – “Quality and Safety”, a certificate for meat and fresh products. “Global GAP” has been introduced in order to avoid food scandals about high contamination with pesticides, about germs and diseases.
It is to ensure, that possible controls don’t reveal any limit violation. The common consumer doesn’t know about it.
How does the cachet “Global GAP” operate?
Global GAP makes particular and definite demands for security and sanitariness for the workers of the firms who are part of the system.
It is about toilets with clean water and soap on the field, limitations for the use of pesticides and insecticides and the conditions of harvesting, transportation and storage conditions.
A cachet unknown to the consumer – with obligations for the suppliers of conventional trade
“Global GAP” has been developed by the retail trade and their suppliers just have been forced to fulfill its demands.
Therefore smaller firms with lower technical standards find it hard to enter the supply chain.
On the other hand: The well-known wishes of the agricultural industry for “stronger pesticides, stronger insekticides, cheap workers, less controls and more price supports” not only have been attacked – they were wiped out.
And the good thing ist that it was really easy to push this through – the market power of the conventional food retail trade makes it possible.
By Global GAP the contamination of the food – fruit and vegetable which are controlled – with chemicals has been decreased and now is far below the legal standards.
So the retail traders don’t have to face food scandals caused by pesticide contamination above the legal limits.
But the controlling social groups and the NGOs – for example Greenpeace – didn’t stop. They developed a ranking about which food of the retail traders was the most contaminated. Thus the traders had to react again. Now every retail company has further pesticide limitations. Even the most “contaminated” stays below 50 % of the legal limits. Some insecticides, for example some of the neonicotinoids, have been forbidden entirely by the retail trade and don’t appear anymore in vegetables.
Conventional farmers have developed solutions under duress – solutions which can be proposed to the “biological” farmers as well
The conventional farmers had a problem. But by taking the challenge, they solved it: More know-how, better educated workers, more technology and more sanitariness were the solutions – as well as more physical and more biological plant protection.
This was the reason for new firms who breed useful insects for farmers, especially with green-houses (biological farming supports useful insects, conventional farming even breed them).
Nowadays you can by everything: Lacewings, predatory mites, assasin bugs, ichneumon flys, nematodes and even ladybugs.
Who is using useful insects cannot use insecticides anymore (the useful insects would die as well). You use soap water or mixtures of soap and herbal oils on infestation spots in order to stop the infestation and to smother the first flare until the useful insects do their job. But by making a foresighted use of insects this is not often necessary.
Are green-houses the better acreages?
Occasionally they fight thrush by the help of sulfur solutions but in most cases this is not necessary anymore. Because who is controlling the climate of a green-house well, won’t have thrush in it. High green-houses have a more stable climate and save energy because they can store up more of the warmth of the day.
Cultivation on rock wool reduces thrush on the roots, swimming cultures – mainly on salad (look at the picture) avoids every root vermin. Safety nets in front of the vents prevent insects from flying in. So today you can buy green-house vegetables mainly from Netherlands or other larger cultivation areas which get “dirtier” by washing them at home. Because nothing but air, useful insects and the harvesting gloves of the workers has touched these fruits.
Also in the open-air field there are attempts to dispense with insecticides and pesticides:
But what can you do if you don’t have a green-house but are cultivating plants in the open field. Protection nets are the preferable method here. Nets with meshs that are so small that certain vermins just stay out. The nets get installed at the flying time of the vermins (you’ll need knowledge and monitoring for that) over the plants. So you keep away vegetable flies, cherry fruit flies and also whiteflies, cabbage butterflies and even greenflies without spreading a drop of insecticide. The nets can be re-used for about 3 years and facilitate – unlike insecticides – a safe cultivation without damage and crop failure.
Weed control is made by bark foils or bark papers which don’t let light get through and under which the weed cannot grow.
So retail trade has achieved something which is called impossible by politicians and lobby groups: clean and not-contaminated vegetable of a high quality.
Regrettably Global GAP concerns only the vegetables and some of the fruits and the ornamental plants, not the grain products.
But the system has a hook: Not everyone is taking part in it.
Global GAP is controlling only the suppliers of conventional retail trade and wholesale.
And now you’ll be astonished …..
Agricultural firms with low standards who don’t want to fulfill the demands of GAP, oftenly are selling their products directly in farm shops or on open-air markets.
To ask the traders on the markets will not be successful because they don’t know about the use of insecticides and pesticides and the producers are allowed to lie about it because it is part of the trade secret.
There are state-run controls but the limits are much higher and because of agricultural lobbyism many control institutions have been closed so that a farm gets controlled every 10 years.
What is unbelievable about Global GAP and the limitations on the retail traders: Many of the conventionally produced vegetables are now less contaminated than vegetables with the “BIO”-seal.
The whole system is perverted: If you want to eat less – contaminated or not-contaminated vegetables you go to supermarkets or discounters who buy from wholesale.
Who wants to buy contaminated vegetables will go to the open-air market or to a farm shop or to a retail trader who is buying directly from farmers.
If you want to be assured that the farmer where you are buying is working properly, you’ll have him show you his or her insecticide / pesticide store.
Who asserts not to have one is lying. Every farmer has a store of that kind, because even soap liquids and plant strengtheners have to be stored – this is the law.
The agents you’ll see are important. Look as well at the second row. There has to be a book about the use of the agents (when, where, which agent and how much). Take a look at it, too. Farm Farm festivities such as “days of the open door” are appropriate occasions. Don’t trust in farmers who won’t let you control their agents’ store.
(This articles represents only the opinion of its author Volker Croy. Volker Croy is horticulturist and agreed when I asked him to share his opinion and his knowledge with the pro-verdura visitors. You can put your questions directly: vcroy[at]h-cotec.de or use the comment function below.)
About the author: Volker Croy offers a variety of services in the field of horticulturism. If you want to know more, look at his website: www.gbi-croy.de (German).