The lack of enforcement was seen as a major issue. These issues were and still are areas of significant dispute and contention within global and national organic sectors.
Many people wanted a way forward and saw the concept of ‘Regenerative Organic Agriculture,’ put forward by Robert Rodale, son of the organic pioneer Jerome Rodale, as a way to resolve this.
Dealing with Greenwashing
The term regenerative agriculture is now being widely used. In some cases, it can be seen as greenwashing and a buzzword used by industrial-agricultural systems to increase profits.
We were very aware of how the giant agribusiness corporations hijacked the term sustainable to the point that it was meaningless when we formed RI. We were also aware of how they are trying to hijack the term agroecology, primarily through the United Nations systems and in some parts of Europe, Africa, and Latin America, where a little biodiversity is sprinkled as greenwash over agricultural systems that still use toxic synthetic pesticides and water-soluble chemical fertilizers.
The critical issue is how do we engage with agribusiness in a way that can positively change their systems as proposed in Organic 3.0? Many corporations adopting regenerative systems are improving their soil organic matter levels using techniques such as cover crops. They are also implementing programs that reduce toxic chemical inputs and improve environmental outcomes. These actions should be seen as positive changes in the right direction. They are a start - not an endpoint. They need to be seen as part of an ongoing process to become fully regenerative.
Some corporations are rebranding their herbicide-sprayed GMO no-till systems as regenerative. These corporations and farming systems are called Degenerative because they are not Regenerative.
The Concept of Degeneration to call out Greenwashing
The opposite of regenerative is degenerative. By definition, agricultural systems that use degenerative practices and inputs that damage the environment, soil, and health, such as synthetic toxic pesticides, synthetic water-soluble fertilizers, and destructive tillage systems, cannot be considered regenerative. They must not use the term and must be called out as degenerative.
Regenerative and Organic based on Agroecology - the path forward.
RI's perspective, all agricultural systems should be regenerative and organic using the science of agroecology.
Regeneration should be seen as a way to improve systems and determine acceptable, degenerative, and unacceptable practices. The criteria to analyze this must be based on the Four Principles of Organic Agriculture. These principles are clear and effective ways to decide what practices are regenerative and what are degenerative.
Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human, and the planet as one and indivisible.
Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness in the familiar environment and life opportunities.
Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.