Promoting good agricultural practices requires standardization and certification. But who defines the standards and framework for certification systems? Dr. Arnd Nenstiel, Global Head of Agricultural Policy and Stakeholder Affairs at Bayer, was a panelist at this year’s GLOBALG.A.P. Summit in Amsterdam, where he focused on whether or not governments should regulate private sector standards. We talked to him after the panel discussion about the need for more public-private collaboration and the BayG.A.P. Service Program.
Why is it so important for a company like Bayer to be here at the GLOBALG.A.P. Summit?
“The GLOBALG.A.P. Summit is a key event for Bayer to participate in. It is a great opportunity for us to engage in dialog with important stakeholders and express our commitment to sustainable agriculture, food safety, and capacity building for farmers.”
You were among the panelists who discussed the need for more public-private collaboration. What is your stance on this issue: Do we need a new governmental framework for certifications?
“From what I hear and what people were talking about before and after the panel discussion – yes, there is quite a big need. Because so far the focus has mostly been on the consumer markets in North America and Europe. When we look at production, it seems that from a developing country’s perspective – and there we address the topic of smallholder farming – certification is really important. In addition, we need a new framework of cooperation between the private sector and governments to make sure that we don’t force growers to fulfill countless separate and independent standards. Instead we should, ideally, come to agree on one common standard. I know that this is not an easy task and that there’s a long way to go – but that’s my hope.”
Do you think that governments should regulate private sector standards?
“In my opinion, a government’s role is to increase consumer confidence and certify production systems. What they shouldn’t be doing is barging in from the very beginning, saying, ‘We need to control the private sector because there’s this underlying level of distrust in the private sector.’ I think what’s important is that governments and the private sector come to the table and say, ‘Here’s what is really needed from an educational point of view – starting on the farm and continuing all the way through to the actual certification.’ That might also include the oversight that certain bodies from the government side want to have. I, for one, am against the immediate regulation of the private sector by the government. But at the end of the day, roles need to be clearly defined. This also applies to joint projects.”
Speaking of joint projects – let’s talk about BayG.A.P., the service program Bayer presented at the GLOBALG.A.P. Summit. Could you tell us a little more about it?
“We started BayG.A.P. as a company three years ago in cooperation with GLOBALG.A.P. It promotes good agricultural practices around the world – benefiting farmers, food chain partners, and consumers. We are very proud of this program. It offers training, farm advice, and verification support – all based on partnership. Together, we develop individual training packages based on an assessment program such as the GLOBALG.A.P. solution localg.a.p. Our service program comprises topics such as Integrated Pest Management, Safe Use, and Food Safety. We have seen quite good traction of the program so far: 18 pilot projects have been initiated – from China, through India, and all the way to Mexico and other parts of Central America. We’ve already received great feedback from farmers and our food chain partners! And we’re only just getting started.”
Could you describe the three main benefits of the BayG.A.P. Service Program?
“I think a major benefit is that we train our own field force, which is then able to walk farmers through a structured enabling process, providing expertise in sustainable agricultural practices. So training and education is the first major element. Besides, we are de facto on the farm. We don’t simply do this from a theoretical standpoint and set standards from somewhere remote, but we’re actually on-site, working with farmers and providing agronomic advice on integrated crop management. That would be the second benefit. But the biggest one is that we help farmers – especially small- and medium-sized farmers – to get certified and connected to the food value chain so that they can access further markets.”
Let’s assume that in six years we meet again at the GLOBALG.A.P. Summit and talk about certifications, standardization, and good agricultural practices – what do you think will have changed by then?
“I hope that in the near future we will develop a common standard for the certification of both small- and medium-sized farmers. In order to achieve this, both the public and private sector need to work together and encourage farmers to get certified, which will help them connect to the food value chain.”