Best Agricultural Practice

GAPs are the framework for the performance of agricultural practices and – if already regulated – the base to be recompensed by positive incentives when complying with them. They are in that sense the “certification basis” of the system targeted to create common practices. GAPs obviously may initiate improvements to production techniques and to supply chain infrastructure (e.g. processing, storage, transportation). They are more and more fixed and less variable regulatory standards and policy instruments. Improvement, therefore, temporarily ends where the standards are fulfilled. GAPs are in that way conservative: they try to define a valuable compromise for all producers. They want to become common practice.

The proposed concept of Best Agricultural Practice (BAP) is innovative: BAP looks forward and the most important characteristic is to detect new solutions. Self-reflection and the expressed will to improve itself are further characteristics. Not to be common is the goal but to select the best idea and the most progressive development in service of societal, ecological or economic demands.

The term “Best Agricultural Practice” bases on the equilibrium between economical, ecological and societal demands aimed to enhance sustainability of production systems.

The driving force is the wish to overcome changed external or internal demands and the introduction of a continual improvement system. Audit followed by search for possibilities of improvement, conceptualised in concrete plans and final implementation of innovations move the circle of improvement of production systems up to momentary best practices with momentary equilibrium of satisfied demands (Alford et al, 2007).

BAPs have the character of models first and can become common agricultural practice after being evaluated as advantageous for the production system. BAPs demonstrate and exemplarily realize visions. Important character of BAP is the use of Best Available Techniques (BAT).

Like GAPs the BAPs are specific developments in single segments of on-farm production processes. They are normally not developments for whole product chains, but mutually take into account the demands of stakeholders of the product chain. Tab. 1 provides a comparison of main characteristics of GAP and BAP.

 The actors of the self-optimization process are manifold: stakeholders from economy, ecology and society formulate questions and modify demands. Research looks for answers. Authorities evaluate the whole process, often co-ordinate it and integrate new developments to standards supported by consultation.

Summarizing, we propose to use the term “Good Agricultural Practice” only if a catalogue of criteria explicitly defines which procedures commonly accepted by practicians are meant and in which combination. “Best Agricultural Practices” in contrast should characterize the most innovative set of procedures connected with a certain agricultural production process.

Table 1: Comparison of characteristics of GAP and BAP



Regulatory instrument

No regulatory instrument

Medium term aims

Future, long term aims

Experience based

Experience and vision based

Minimum agreement

Optimum possible with best techniques available

Aimed to standardization

Supporting the selection of best solution

Common practice

Developed practice of singles

Base for incentives

Base for awards

Base for improvement of agricultural practices

Direction for the improve-ment process of GAPs

Fixed temporarily in catalogues of criteria

Permanently in flux

Long term change of agreements possible

Impulses for changes of GAPs

Manifold existing standards by GO and NGO

Oriented in a unique  holistic standard

Targeted mainly to segments of product chain

Oriented in demands of the whole production chain


BAP Concept