This article compares four Dutch environmental certification schemes for agricultural food crops, analysing their methodology and the completeness of their criteria on five aspects: pesticide use, nutrient use, water management, energy and materials consumption, and habitat management The least stringent of the labels, the MBT (Environmentally Aware Cultivation) certificate, serves mainly to increase farmers' awareness of nutrient and pesticide use. With regard to both administrative obligations and actual management practices, the MBT label largely mirrors the terms of standing Dutch legislation. The CC ('Controlled Cultivation) and AMK (Agro-Environmental) labels comprise more and more stringent criteria. With their restrictions on nutrient and pesticide use, these two labels serve as the two principal labels in the field of integrated agriculture. There is little difference between the two and it is recommended that they be merged, on the basis of a standardised definition of integrated agriculture. The EKO ('Organic Agriculture) label proceeds from different principles, but as a minimum should also comply with Dutch legislation without exception. For both integrated and organic agriculture, in addition to criteria on pesticide and nutrient use, criteria should also be developed for water management energy and materials use and habitat management. The relationship between the criteria and their respective thresholds and Dutch legislation is also addressed. Existing criteria are frequently specified in such a way that the environmental benefits cannot be ascertained. This is a serious drawback for the parties further down the chain: auctioneers, retailers and consumers. It is recommended to develop qualitative guidelines for an Agricultural Stewardship Council at international level, like the Forest Stewardship Council, and a separate label for integrated agriculture per country comprising quantitative criteria for all relevant aspects of farming operations. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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