Can public GAP standards reduce agricultural pesticide use? The case of fruit and vegetable farming in northern Thailand

Agriculture and Human Values 29 (4):519-529 (2012)
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Abstract

In response to the chronic overuse and misuse of pesticides in agriculture, governments in Southeast Asia have sought to improve food safety by introducing public standards of good agricultural practices (GAP). Using quantitative farm-level data from an intensive horticultural production system in northern Thailand, we test if fruit and vegetable producers who follow the public GAP standard use fewer and less hazardous pesticides than producers who do not adhere to the standard. The results show that this is not the case. By drawing on qualitative data from expert interviews and an action research project with local litchi (“lychee”) producers we explain the underlying reasons for the absence of significant differences. The qualitative evidence points at poor implementation of farm auditing related to a program expansion that was too rapid, at a lack of understanding among farmers about the logic of the control points in the standard, and at a lack of alternatives given to farmers to manage their pest problems. We argue that by focusing on the testing of farm produce for pesticide residues, the public GAP program is paying too much attention to the consequences rather than the root cause of the pesticide problem; it needs to balance this by making a greater effort to change on-farm practices.

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