By Ken Roseboro

Published: October 4, 2018

Category: Regenerative Agriculture, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

Advocates of different certification programs may disagree on the best way to regenerate agriculture but they agree on the goal of soil health as a key to mitigating climate change. That was a key takeaway of “A Regenerative Forum” held at Natural Products Expo East in September.

A panel of certification experts discussed their different approaches. Tom Harding, founder of Lehigh Valley Growers, emphasized the importance of the National Organic Program (NOP) as an established standard that consumers know and trust.

“Eighty-three percent of consumers recognize the USDA seal,” he said.

Harding said the NOP needs to be strengthened and protected. “We need to keep raising the standard and continue to fight for and protect it. The government needs to know why organic is important.”

Jeff Moyer, executive director of the Rodale Institute, discussed the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) developed by Rodale, Patagonia, and Dr. Bronner’s. He said the ROC aims to strengthen the organic standard by adding requirements for soil health, animal welfare, and social justice that are lacking in the NOP.

According to Moyer, the ROC aims to set a “high bar,” with continuous improvement. “Shouldn’t we aspire to be better?” he asked.

Moyer compared different certifications to merit badges that Boy Scouts earn and said the ROC was like the “Eagle Scout” level. “Once you become an Eagle Scout that is one badge, which shows you’ve gotten all the other badges.”

Chris Kerston, director of public outreach & events at The Savory Institute, discussed his group’s Land-to-Market program for regenerative sourcing. Land-to-Market is an ecological verification program focusing on soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. “Livestock and land health are our strengths,” he said.

Sara Newmark, vice president of social impact at supplement manufacturer MegaFood, described the Soil Carbon Initiative, which was launched by the Carbon Underground and Green America. Newmark said her group initially agreed that another certification standard wasn’t needed, but that changed.

“Different stakeholders really identified a gap for an outcomes based initiative for soil health. We decided to move forward with an outcomes based standard for mitigating climate change and drawing down carbon,” she said.

Her group felt a sense of urgency to address climate change. “We have to act now. Agriculture is a solution to the climate crisis, and we need to motivate farmers to move the needle to soil health.”

All the speakers emphasized the need to work together and understand that their goals are the same.

“This is an opportunity for all of us to work together,” Newmark said.

Moyer used an analogy to describe how the certification approaches have the same goal but differ on the methods.

“We’ve all gotten into the car and decided to go to the beach. We just haven’t decided how to get there.”

Kerston agreed. “We have the same vision as the other groups here. It’s about how they find the way.”

Harding also emphasized the importance of working together. “If we divide ourselves, we are making a big mistake.”

Moyer said the different certification programs can literally find common ground on soil health. “It’s all about the soil; it starts with the soil and ends with the soil.”

About the Author

Ken Roseboro

Ken Roseboro has been called “the nation’s reporter on all issues surrounding genetically modified foods” by Acres USA magazine. He has written extensively about GM foods and the non-GMO trend since 1999. Ken’s articles have appeared in leading food and agriculture publications and websites such as Civil Eats, Harvest Public Media, Prepared Foods, Natural Foods Merchandiser, Food Processing, as well as The Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Mother Earth News, and others. He is a contributing editor to EcoWatch. Ken is author of Genetically Altered Foods and Your Health and The Organic Food Handbook both published by Basic Health Publications. He has spoken at many conferences including Natural Products Expo West, Acres USA Conference, The Organic Farming Conference, National Heirloom Seed Expo, and others. Ken is a member of the design team of the Non-GMO Supply Working Group and a founding member of the board of directors of the Iowa Organic Association. Ken also serves on the board of directors of Soil Technologies Corporation. He appears in the award-winning documentary film, GMO OMG. In 2006, Ken received an Award of Merit from Seed Savers Exchange for his efforts to preserve genetic diversity through his publications.