Speaking at an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) seminar this week, Paola Termine from the Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Programme said that such practices could contribute to a better environmental and social development at both national and international levels.
"For example, improvements in agricultural practices, such as integrated production and pest management, can lead to substantial improvements not only in terms of yield and production efficiencies but also in health and safety of workers," said Termine.
FAO expert Anne-Sophie Poisot added that the phrase 'good agricultural practices' is now most commonly used to designate codes of agriculture production methods for implementation at farm level, which are promoted by many governments, retailers, exporters, producers, academia and other actors in the agriculture sector around the world.
The globalisation of agriculture is a hot topic at the moment, not least because attempts at reviving the WTO Doha round of trade talks are still taking place.
The Doha Development Agenda, launched in November 2001, in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, with a special focus on achieving concrete benefits for developing countries.
But WTO members refused to budge on issues such as the lowering of tariffs on certain goods, during the final Doha round of WTO (World Trade Organisation) trade talks last summer. The talks have since been suspended.
And developing countries, faced with changing international and domestic food markets and a proliferation of standards and codes, are finding it increasingly challenging to penetrate rich countries' markets, since many subsidies and tariffs remain in place.
The FAO also recently warned that strengthening world prices, caused by tight supply and increasing demand, could raise food import bills by 7 per cent in 2006 for least-developed countries, and by almost 5 per cent for net food-importing developing countries.
Globally, the food import bill could rise by 2 per cent for all countries and by 3.5 per cent for all developing countries, indicating that the poorest countries will be the hardest hit.
Hopes still exist that the global agricultural trade talks will resume the CIAA, which represents Europe's food and drink industry, is one of many organisations pushing for their resumption. In the meantime, the FAO is pushing for good agriculture practices to be initiated.
"FAO has an important facilitating role to play in helping public and private stakeholders work together and find win-win situations for the implementation of good agricultural practices in the specific contexts of developing countries," said Poisot.
"FAO's approach is voluntary and would not lead to new international standards or codes, but is consistent with existing international regulatory frameworks."
In recent years, FAO has launched many initiatives to support the adoption of good agricultural practices and to help institutions implement them in developing countries. National workshops, projects and other activities were organized in Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand, Chile and other countries.