OPN Connect Newsletter 107 · March 21, 2019

Regenerative Claims Strike Nerve with Organic Pioneers

By- Sylvia R. Tawse

At a packed Climate Day event organized by The Climate Collaborative at Natural Products Expo West, the specter of a word and label war raised its head, this time between ‘organic’ and ‘regenerative’. 

The 700-plus participant event served to inspire, provoke thoughtful discourse, and motivate companies to pledge to make changes in their business practices to reduce negative climate impact. Yet, a number of organic industry pioneers, activists, and farmers were disturbed by the regenerative vs. organic dialogue. Many speakers advocated for regenerative agriculture with no mention of organic practices, while others promoted it by denigrating and marginalizing the importance of organic agriculture.    

Stemilt September 2021

And, so, I thought, “here we go again.” Remember the “S” word years where ‘sustainable agriculture’ was ‘beyond organic’?  Then the ‘local trumps organic’ era?  Rather than infighting, surely we should be facing the same direction to fight environmental degradation?

General Mills Regenerative display at NPEW 2019

Shauna Sadowski, General Mills’ head of Sustainability, Natural & Organic Unit, promised one million acres in ‘regenerative agriculture’ by 2030, but when asked how improvement would be measured, how many of the regenerative acres would be certified organics, or how General Mills defined ‘regenerative’, she was unclear.

Organics Unlimited September 2021

Climate Day provided an environment of inclusion, actionable solutions and industry voices.  Erin Callahan, executive director of The Climate Collaborative, provided a bounty of education and ways to activate change.  And 360 companies on The Climate Collaborative’ s website, have echoed the words of the day’s  Keynote speakers------ Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and Zach Bush, MD and CEO of Seraphic Group Inc.  

General Mills Regenerative display at NPEW 2019

“Nature doesn’t mess around. Nature is perfect. We need a revolution to live. Vote only for politicians who put climate change at number one of their priorities!” said Chouinard, whose company has donated $100 million this year to environmental causes. “We need to go beyond organic. We really do.’

The word “regenerative”, when not a label that is part of a third-party verification program, is a term at risk of becoming another fashionable, fleeting term.  The Rodale Institute’s Certified Regenerative Organic and The Savory Institute’s Land to Market protocols define regenerative to include organic.  Herein lies the rub.  Trust is earned from consistency over time.  With no definition or USDA oversight verification for ‘sustainable,’ ‘local’ or ‘regenerative’ it will be a tough mountain to climb to summit and maintain consumer trust.

Red Sun Farms September 2021

In organic we have a phrase for our practices that is meant to be unifying: “Planting in harmony with nature.”  “Harmony” went off key at Climate Day when ‘regenerative’ was used to diminish organic as a solution.  Let’s instead work together to promote organic and regenerative as complementary practices that sustain a healthy planet, and commit to mitigate climate impact by joining The Climate Collaborative.

Sylvia R. Tawse is Chief Fresh Officer for Fresh Ideas Group and she and her husband own Pastures of Plenty Farm in Longmont, CO. They know their farm is both organic AND, therefore also regenerative. 

Starr Ranch September 2021

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