The registration of chemicals that are used has been the usual practice in the Environmental Conscious Cultivation (Milieubewuste voedingstuinbouw, MBT) for several years. The aim of the programme is to stimulate environmentally aware horticulture.
The MBT Foundation states in its annual report that environmental guidelines have been compiled for almost every crop. The use of fertilisers, pesticides and energy are evaluated and a rating system indicates whether sufficient allowance has been made for the environment. More than half of all growers complied with the MBT guidelines in 1997. The guidelines are re-examined annually and amended if necessary.
The independent international organisation SGS Agrocontrol monitors whether the grower’s operations comply with the MBT guidelines, while TNO-Nutrition and Food Research Institute monitors the residues. MBT products can be recognised by a butterfly logo.
One important development in 1997 was the introduction of concrete sanctions in the form of yellow and red tickets. A grower who has received three yellow tickets or one red ticket may not use the butterfly logo for one year. The MBT corresponds closely to international standards such as ‘integrated fruit management’ or ‘integrated pest management’.
In addition to the MBT programme, there are also products available in the Netherlands with the agro-eco label. This independent Dutch quality mark is awarded to products that are produced in environmentally friendly ways. The requirements for the agro-eco label are usually somewhat more demanding than those for the MBT’s mark of approval. It could be seen as a ‘MBT-plus packet’. Monitoring for the agro-eco label is in the hands of the MBT Foundation. Unlike the MBT’s butterfly logo, the environmental label focuses on the consumer. It also corresponds closely to the environmental requirements for non-agricultural products.
In 1997, potatoes, apples, pears, onions, peppers, wheat, bread and barley were produced in accordance with the requirements of the agro-eco label. However the scale of participation was still modest. In addition to these agricultural products, environmental criteria have been drawn up for cauliflower, broccoli, curly kale, leek, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, lettuce, endive and strawberries, among others.
The MBT quality mark and the agro-eco label are focussed mainly on the environmental performance of the primary agricultural sector. However fruits and vegetables are handled after the harvest and often also processed into foodstuffs. To be able to guarantee the safety of the product throughout the chain, the Product Board for Horticulture has developed a number of hygiene codes.
By living up to these codes the horticultural industry complies with its obligations, regarding foodstuffs, under the HACCP principles (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points). The hygiene code for processed fruit and vegetables was implemented in 1996. In 1997 the Dutch government also approved the hygiene code for unprocessed fruit and vegetables.