North American and EU organic groups were asked to provide comments on the new Regenerative Organic Certification, including whether this new certification is complementary to existing organic labels or will create consumer confusion, while we have included an extract from an article published by Canada's Organic Council of Ontario.
The U.S. Organic Trade Association responded to questions over the impending launch of two new organic certification labels and standards in the U.S, the Real Organic label and particularly the Regenerative Organic Certification, which says it will maximize carbon capture and soil health and raise organic standards.
The Organic Trade Association's executive director Laura Batcha provided the following statement relating to the Regenerative Organic Certification:
“The Organic Trade Association always welcomes efforts to improve agriculture through standards development, and we are committed to continuous improvement in organic farming practices. The goals of increasing soil organic matter over time, improving animal welfare, providing economic stability and fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers, and creating resilient regional ecosystems and communities are in line with the Organic Trade Association’s mission to promote and protect organic agriculture, to grow organic to achieve excellence in agriculture, protect the environment and enhance community well-being.
"The Organic Trade Association recognizes the decades of significant investment and hard work of 24,000 certified operations, mostly farmers, in USDA’s NOP seal. The regenerative agriculture standard’s aim to support rather than supplant the organic standards is commendable. Certified organic is the gold standard of excellence. USDA’s organic standards are based on strong requirements, and we are glad to see that recognized by ROC.”
The Organic Council of Ontario said in a December 2018 article: "In recent years, leaders in the organic sector around the world have debated how to best address challenges within the sector and define the next phase of organic agriculture, known as 'Organic 3.0'. How can we scale up organic agriculture in a sustainable way, while rewarding innovation and leadership within the sector?"
One such effort in the United States is the new Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), a standard that intends to go beyond the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic standards, put forth by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, the OCO said.
The Alliance created the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) in response to several factors, including the US National Organic Standards Board’s controversial vote to allow hydroponics in the certified organic industry, and the Trump government's decision to withdraw a stringent organic animal welfare rule.
Despite their frustrations with the U.S. National Organic Program (NOP), the Alliance still recognizes its importance and believes it should be strengthened.
“The COS should be stronger in emphasizing soil health and animal welfare. The word ‘organic’ has been watered down and only embodies some of the original principles of organic agriculture,” said Mike MacGillivray from Kirkview Farms, a 96-acre family farm operating on the principles of regenerative agriculture. MacGillivray is hopeful that a model such as the ROC will be adopted in Canada as well.
Thorsten Arnold, an OCO board member and representative on the Canadian Organic Value Chain Roundtable Task Force on Organic 3.0 explained the dilemma: “If the Canadian Organic Standards become more stringent, many organic farmers may price themselves out of the global market and reduce the area under organic production. This process would require a political battle within the organic sector, which may not be our goal."
U.S. NGO and organic farming advocate the Cornucopia Institute said in an April 2018 release; it remains committed to protecting the integrity of organic food and farming. Cornucopia said it's neutral on add-on labels for organic products and will judge them on their merits in terms of standards and enforceability, and that the Real Organic label is being developed by some of the true heroes in this movement.
"The proliferation of extra labels will require consumer education to avoid confusion. Additional standards are only necessary because of the abysmal job the USDA has done in protecting consumers from fraud and ethical farmers in organic business people from unfair competition," Cornucopia said.
Mark Kastel, the co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an ardent critic of soil-less, hydroponic certified organic growing, said that while diehard organic consumers may devote time to understanding the nuances of three different organic labels, many more may decide it’s too hard to check out their varied meanings.
A long-time adversary of the Organic Trade Association, Mr. Kastel is somewhat uncomfortably on the industry trade group’s side in the debate over the new certification programs. “There’s a real risk that the new seals will turn products that just have the federal seal into second-class citizens, unable to command the premium prices needed for even the most basic organic production,” Kastel said.
IFOAM EU Group said in a recent media interview on the Regenerative Organic Certification's focus on the three pillars of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness that these principals are already part of Europe's organic certification standards and are the roots from which organic agriculture has developed and continued to grow.