In the aisles of your typical grocery store, we know that "certified organic" is about as good as it gets. But a new certification coming down the pipeline aims to go beyond organic and provide eco-conscious foodies with an even better standard: Regenerative Organic Certification.
The new certification comes from the Rodale Institute, a coalition of farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, scientists and brands "committed to groundbreaking research in organic agriculture, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating people about how organic is the safest, healthiest option for people and the planet," according to their website. Their latest initiative is the culmination of decades of study around "regenerative" agriculture, or farming that goes beyond being simply sustainable to actually improving the resources it uses rather than destroying or depleting them.
"It's a holistic systems approach to farming that encourages continual innovation for environmental, social, and economic well-being," reads the press release.
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While the term "regenerative agriculture" was coined in 1942, this is the first time the Rodale Institute is attempting to establish a new, high-bar standard for the farming process. The standard encompasses guidelines for soil health and land management, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness, and provides guidance for farming and ranching operations, transportation, slaughter, and processing facilities that produce food, cosmetics, and fiber. The standard will be administered by NSF International.
Having a widespread regenerative network could have huge implications for the environment. In 2014, research by Rodale Institute estimated that if current crop acreage and pastureland shifted to regenerative organic practices, 100 percent of annual global CO2 emissions could be sequestered in the soil, and is being championed by some as the best next step for civilization.
"Bringing soil to the center of our consciousness and our planning is vital not only for the life of the soil, but also for the future of our society,” Vandana Shiva, a food and seed sovereignty activist and member of the Regeneration International steering committee said in a statement. “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”
Regenerative Organic Certification does not aim to displace current organic standards, however. Instead, according to the Rodale Institute, this certification hopes to support these standards while also facilitating widespread adoption of holistic, regenerative practices throughout agriculture by building upon the standards set forth by USDA Organic and similar programs internationally.