Last year the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development launched Nepal Good Agriculture Practices (NepalGAP) scheme. The scheme was developed few years back and recently three pilot farms were awarded the NepalGAP certificate after successfully comply with all requirements under the scheme. With this certification, some positive and negative feedback is coming from corner to corner.
Most of the farmers and some other people who are interested in the agriculture sector are getting confused with NepalGAP and other standards like organic farming. Some are also found critical that whether the government is bringing NepalGAP to supersede organic farming in Nepal. However, some people are appreciating the government efforts to bring NepalGAP into effect.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a novel concept, therefore prevailing confusion among us is not a surprise. We are not as accustomed with GAP as we do with organic. Although most of us do not know the details about organic, all most all of us heard about it and we do believe that it is good for us. Moreover, most of us also believe that organic products are expensive as compared to normal commodities. As a result, the organic became a premium product and the general public supposed it’s not for them. However, GAP is for all and not a premium-priced product.
Why the movement of organic rise?
Traditionally, agricultural commodities were organic. Our forefathers were doing the same thing that we are currently advocating for organic. So, how and when the deviation occurred?
The well-known philosopher Thomas Marshall postulated the population theory where he stated that the population grows in the geometric ratio whereas the food grows at an arithmetic ratio. In this course of action, providing the limitation on land, at a point our land cannot produce enough food to feed the world population. Although the theory hasn’t acknowledged the vertical growth of agriculture which can be achieved through technological innovation, in general, the theory was obvious and plausible. Dr. Norman Borlaug developed a high yielding dwarf variety of wheat, which was also the disease-resistant, brought the green revolution by doubling wheat production in many countries including Mexico, India, and Pakistan. Acknowledging the huge contribution of Dr. Borlaug for food security, he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
The green revolution increased food production significantly. However, the negative consequences of the green revolution were documented by various scientists from around the world. The environmental degradation, health hazards, deterioration of soil and others were linked to the green revolution. Under this banner, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and some cases of crop failures leading to suicidal cases of farmers swiftly waved the organic movement.
The application of agrochemicals is blamed for those consequences and advocacy was widespread for organic farming. Largely, consumers were also getting aware of such negative consequences and more concerned about pesticide residue on food. Nonetheless, the corporatization of organic farming at the global level under the banner of third party certification elevated the cost of production significantly. As a result, resource-poor farmers were marginalized and they couldn’t afford the farming system. Moreover, due to the significant cost for the certification, the price went up which became unaffordable to general consumers and became a luxury food.
Besides the cost of certification and market positioning of organic farming, food safety is seriously overlooked. Consequently, foodborne illness was reported from some of the certified organic food even in America. Several researchers have pointed out that the consumers’ willingness to pay for organic is largely related to food safety and the concept is greatly encapsulated as pesticide residues. Therefore, despite being a very effective approach from an environmental point of view, the concern of the consumers was not adequately addressed even to those segments of consumers who are affording organic.
Due to globalization, food safety became a serious concern for the consumers whereas the sanitary and phytosanitary issues for the state authorities. Moreover, contamination may occur at any critical point along the long food chain. As a result, controlling at some point is not an effective approach. Likewise, some consumers demand testing of food at the market which sounds a quite brilliant idea. However, laboratory test of commodities which had already arrived in the market is not a sustainable and wiser approach. Of course, for awareness-raising, it could be instrumental. For instance, the rapid bioassay of pesticide residue (RBPR) test at the Kalimati another major vegetable and fruit market has created impressive awareness among the actors of the food chain.
Farm to Fork
Unless we intervene in the food system from farm to fork, food safety cannot be assured. Therefore, the concept of GAP emerged in the late 90s from Europe. In 2003, the committee on agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an agreement was achieved to consider GAP as an immediate approach to tackle contemporary issues from food safety to sustainability of agriculture.
NepalGAP, developed under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) standard, has five modules- food safety, product quality, environmental, general regulation and farmers health, welfare and safety. Each model has criteria of practice that farmers have to comply. To overcome the financial burden of farmers to become certified, the government has announced a zero certification cost. Therefore, farmers wishing to enroll in NepalGAP need not pay for certification. Which directly fulfill the gaps of organic farming. Moreover, some critiques are expressing their displeasure regarding not banning the use of pesticides under GAP. Indeed GAP, although does not prohibit the use of pesticides, it discourages the uses and strictly regulates the use. More importantly, it accepts the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is widely accepted and is practicing around the world.
In a nutshell, GAP and organic are not competitors rather the government is promoting both to make diverse menus for consumers and producers. Nonetheless, the contemporary world is now much more concerned about food safety and sustainability than ever before.
Article by:ARUN GC