(Oct. 23) HOUSTON — GlobalGAP has come to the U.S., with its chairman making an informal introduction of the recently rebranded audit system jointly operated by suppliers and retailers at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2007.

Cologne, Germany-based EurepGAP became GlobalGAP in September. Now it is being marketed in the U.S., where membership in the audit-based group pales in comparison to that in Europe, Latin America and Asia, said chairman Nigel Garbutt.

In the 10 years since its launch as a European-focused voluntary organization for good agricultural practices, the former EurepGAP has seen its influence grow, Garbutt said. Retailers in South and Central America, the United Kingdom and Europe embraced EurepGAP because many provided private-label fresh produce and other foods and were legally required to show due diligence in sourcing.

GlobalGAP has 34 retail members who work with suppliers to establish and review good agricultural practice standards.

“Also, consumers wanted to know more and more about how the food is produced, and they are interested in what standards are used to produce the food, and retailers wanted to provide more information to consumers about the standard,” Garbutt said.

Garbutt said retailers have been willing to reduce the redundant audits in recognition of the value of the GlobalGAP standard.

“It’s good for the producers because it achieves a common playing field,” he said.

A question at the Fresh Summit session focused on the cost of the certification, which is more expensive than the average third-party food safety audit in the U.S.; other participants wondered how and when suppliers are delisted from GlobalGAP if they don’t comply with the rules.

Garbutt said the status of suppliers is kept up to date online and buyers can clearly tell who is in compliance. What buyers decide to do with suppliers who don’t meet the standard is a business-to-business decision, he said.

Ronald Bown, president of the Chilean Exporters Association, Santiago, said some retail buyers purchase from growers outside the standards because they can get a lower price.

“We would like more retailers to get behind these standards, but it is a journey and not something that happens overnight,” Garbutt said.

He said GlobalGAP-certified farms in the U.S. mainly certify for overseas shipments, adding that U.S. retailers may pay more attention to GlobalGAP. He said the adoption of the international standard could lead to fewer audits for growers.

“The building blocks are in place for the U.S. market,” he said. “In the final analysis, it is up to the shippers and retailers to determine what they want to do with certifications.”