Interview with GLOBALGAP Managing Director Dr Elmé Coetzer-Boersma

Elmé expresses the past and future challenges of the organization for the next 20 years, with the departure of Managing Director Dr Kristian Moeller after 20 years as head of GLOBALG.A.P.
Fri 23/06/2023 by Pierre Escodo

1. What do you think GLOBALG.A.P. should seek to accomplish in the next 20 years considering the coming challenges and opportunities in the agricultural sector?

In the last 20 years, we have continuously developed our products in response to global challenges and we will maintain this vital approach over the next 20 years, offering innovative GLOBALG.A.P. solutions to address the challenges that our stakeholders face. This includes the challenges set at the governmental level which impact not only producers, but also retailers and how they source their products. With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals firmly on our agenda, we aim to address topical challenges affecting our industry in the coming years, with the focus largely on environmental protection, biodiversity, food safety, and social aspects

Since April 2022—spearheaded by our new and improved Integrated Farming Assurance (IFA) v6 standard, we have also begun updating our whole portfolio on farm assurance solutions to offer increasingly streamlined, intuitive and digitalized solutions for the entire sector. We continue to evolve in this area as we delve further into the era of smart farm assurance solutions. We are well-positioned to provide producers and retailers with the support they need, and we continue to collaborate with our stakeholders to develop targeted optimizations which serve them.

The following challenges are high on our agenda:

Fighting climate change: we actively contribute toward achieving climate goals on a global scale, through the promotion of responsible farming practices that minimize negative environmental impact. We have seen the devastating impacts of increasing droughts and declining biodiversity and activated additional assurance solutions (add-ons) to tackle these topics, whether it is by preserving and promoting biodiversity at farm level or monitoring water consumption and promoting sustainable watershed management.

Digitalization: understanding how retailers operate and encouraging producers to share their stories and knowledge while show-casing compliance is vital in the development of our solutions. Auditing methods must take these developments into account – utilizing both human experts and technology to provide trustworthy assurance in primary production processes.

Supporting sustainable production: the flagship IFA standard takes a holistic approach to responsible farming practices, with a significant focus on environmental sustainability. The standard is continuously evolving in this regard. Other solutions such as the BioDiversity, SPRING and GGFSA add-ons specifically address further areas of sustainability with a more flexible approach. Our newly formed Environmental Sustainability Working Group (ESWG ) will help shape the future of this work.

Our solutions address many topics of public interest and concern, which is why we also developed the GGN label for consumers. Found on both packed and loose products, the GGN label exists to offer consumers consistent, relevant assurance and orientation throughout the store. It does so by confirming that the products were farmed in line with certified, responsible farming practices that cover food safety, environmental protection, animal welfare, social responsibility, and supply chain transparency.

Sharing knowledge and resources/support: we offer tools for the food sector to make a positive contribution in the world, and to best address their unique current and upcoming challenges. The crucial involvement of our stakeholders in continuously developing new solutions – or improving existing ones – is firmly anchored in our DNA.

2. Will social and environmental issues be of greater concern over food security in the next 10 years and beyond?

For us, food safety and food security go hand in hand and the two topics cannot be viewed independently. And ensuring food security (sustainable and sufficient access to safe and nutritious foods) is simply not possible without considering sustainability as well – both the social and environmental aspects. GLOBALG.A.P. has tackled these issues through its various solutions for over 25 years and we will continue to evolve to help producers implement safe, socially and environmentally responsible farming practices and gain recognition of these from supply chain members and consumers.

Unfortunately, social issues in the farming sector are still of concern. Respect for workers’ rights and well-being has always been an essential part of our work and our standards which is why we offer the GLOBALG.A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP) add-on which covers farm-level social and labor practices. Recently, we further strengthened the add-on with GRASP v2. For example, the workers covered in GRASP v2 represents one of the broadest and most comprehensive definitions in the standards industry, with a special focus on migrant workers. All GRASP v2 requirements are applicable not only to full-time workers but also to temporary, seasonal, and subcontracted workers, a major factor in the vulnerability of migrant workers. By further developing this standard of farm worker welfare, we aim to help identify and mitigate social risks, and we will continue to do so on our path to sustainability for future generations.

Overall, it is impossible to say which issue is the greatest, since these topics are all incredibly interconnected, requiring a holistic approach. Food security is vital for the well-being of global populations, and social and environmental sustainability is critical in promoting food security.

3. Do you envision a GLOBALG.A.P. standard for organic food production in the next five to 10 years? Do you believe that European or global standards will remain important or will there be a shift towards national standards? 

While organic farming standards exist and certainly have a role to play, the majority of the world’s farmland is still used for conventional agricultural practices – which is where our focus lies. We believe we can make the biggest impact by promoting safer and more sustainable farming practices on these conventional farms; we can address global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity and social issues via primary production standards that are implemented worldwide. Amid increasing interaction between the climate and agriculture, producers all over the world are facing growing pressure to farm more responsibly and sustainably and GLOBALG.A.P. offers cost-effective, streamlined, and customized solutions to face these challenges in the coming years.

4. Is GLOBALG.A.P. working on a global organic standard or focusing more on environmental and social issues?

GLOBALG.A.P. is not pursuing any organic standards at the moment, however we remain committed to both environmental and social issues. With IFA v6 for fruit and vegetables for instance, 36% of the updated requirements focus solely on environmental sustainability. Through our commitment to our principles as well as our focus on incorporating solutions in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we strive to promote biodiversity, sustainability, food safety, and workers’ well-being and human rights in conventional farming. We view our standards and add-ons as ambitious yet realistic tools which are fit for addressing the current challenges that affect environmental and social aspects in primary production.


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