What Does the New Regenerative Organic Certification Mean for the Future of Good Food?

Several new labels introduced last week seek to move beyond USDA organic. Can they shore up sustainable practices, or will they sow consumer confusion?

Author: Ariana Reguzzoni | Published: March 12, 2018

Organic is not enough. Or that’s the thinking behind the new Regenerative Organic Certification(ROC) that was officially launched at the Natural Products Expo West trade show last week. The Regenerative Organic Alliance, a coalition of organizations and businesses led by the Rodale Institute, Patagonia, and Dr. Bronner’s, have joined the seemingly unstoppable engine propelling sustainable agriculture beyond the term “organic,” or, as some believe, bringing it back to its original meaning.

“[The USDA] Organic [label] is super important—thank goodness it was put into play,” says Birgit Cameron, senior director of Patagonia Provisions, an arm of Patagonia that aims to solve environmental issues by supporting climate-friendly food producers. “The ROC is absolutely never meant to replace it, but rather to keep it strong to the original intention.”

Like other newly proposed certifications—including the “The Real Organic Project,” which was also announced last week—one of the Alliance’s primary goals is to require growers to focus on soil health and carbon sequestration. But, as Cameron explains, it is also an attempt to be a “north star” for the industry as a certification that encompasses the health of the planet, animal welfare, and social fairness.

As producers move up through its tier system (bronze, silver, and gold) they will eventually set an even “higher bar” than any other labels offered right now. According to Jeff Moyer, executive director of the Rodale Institute, this built-in incentive to constantly improve on-farm practices is something the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic requirements lack.