Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) approaches apply recommendations for the on-farm segment of agricultural product chains and post-harvest processes resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products.
Recently, the term Good Agricultural Practice can refer to any collection of specific methods, which, when applied to agriculture, produce results that are in harmony with the values of the proponents of those practices. Because of that, there are numerous competing definitions of what methods constitute "Good Agricultural Practices", so whether a practice can be considered "good" will depend on the standards a farmer is applying. Consequently, the term is used to refer to private, voluntary and non-regulatory applications that are being developed and applied in a number of forms by governments, civil society organizations and the private sector to meet farmers’ and consumers’ needs and specific requirements in the product chain. The decisive characteristic of GAPs is the existence of underlying catalogues of criteria
On basis of some catalogues of criteria GAP is formally recognized terminology used in the international regulatory framework (EC, 2003; Gündermann, 2005) with associated codes of practice (see below) to minimize or prevent the contamination of food potentially caused by the producer. It is or should be included in a continuous system of quality control (CAC, 2001).
The development of GAP applications in different formal regulatory contexts has been taken place in a coordinated way by FAO (2004). FAO provided an international and neutral platform for intergovernmental, private sector and civil society dialogue on the development of a GAP approach towards concrete implementation of sustainable agriculture and rural development. Furthermore, FAO had initiated a process of consultation to seek understanding of the principles, indicators and applications of GAP. The actions should promote sustainable agriculture and natural resources management contributing to food security - access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food - and improved livelihoods.
The GAP approach can provide a means for farmers to respond to existing standards, norms, and certification efforts. It offers management options for sustainable agriculture practice, taking into account universal criteria associated with environmental, economic and social dimensions. Characteristicly, GAPs are formulated for special segments of the agricultural production (e.g. “Good Plant Protection Practice”, Reschke et al., 1987; EPPO, 1994) or for specific production systems (e.g. “Good Practice in Potato Production”, EPPO, 2000; Medicinal Plants, http://www.inaro.de/Deutsch/ROHSTOFF/industrie/HEILPFL/ GAPengl.htm). There are only some catalogues of criteria for on-farm production in a whole (e.g. EUREPGAP, 2001). Generally, GAPs end at the farmgate or after storage of products or raw material.
Nevertheless, GAPs have effects throughout the production-processing-consumption chain. Farmers and farm workers are those who directly decide how to apply the practices in the field demonstrating the special importance of farmers for the alimentation of people. The other actors in the production-processing-consumption chain depend on the farmers and indirectly influence those decisions by their demands.
Incentives can arise as regulations for food safety or environmental quality; economic subsidies, price premiums and access to markets develop from meeting certification or labeling standards and the demand that comes from consumer preferences (EC, 2003b). The GAP approach tries to address incentives for adoption within the current landscape of principles, certifications, accreditation, and labels, and the modern market context (www.fao.org). Certification following defined standards should result in transparency of production, reliability of producer, trade and retailer, and cross compliance of production techniques. The main goal behind the introduction of standards is traceability of agricultural production.