Organic: the benchmark for truly regenerative farming

3rd October 2022

There is a new ‘buzz word’ being championed by numerous industry stakeholders and influencers – regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture seeks to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide by growing plants that move carbon dioxide into the soil mostly through ‘no-till” and/or "reduced till" practices and permanent perennial pastures and grasslands.

There are several individuals, groups, and organizations that have attempted to define the principles of regenerative agriculture. In their review of the existing literature on regenerative agriculture, researchers at Wageningen University created a database of 279 published research articles on regenerative agriculture.

Their analysis of this database found that people using the term regenerative agriculture were using different principles and practises to guide their interpretation.

While there are some excellent regenerative initiatives, the lack of clarity around a regenerative approach is worrying.

It means potentially hazardous synthetic fertilisers, harmful synthetic biocides, and genetically modified or engineered crops with potential risks to ecosystems and to rural economies may all be used. Furthermore, animal welfare may not always be prioritised. In sharp contrast, organic’s legally binding production standards already clearly enshrines the best of regenerative agriculture’s principles.

Over seventy years organic production has focused on strengthening the health of soils; increasing biodiversity; improving the water cycle; and increasing resilience to climate change. Organic farming continues to reconnect humans with nature’s rhythms and ecosystems and has regenerated natural landscapes while providing us with nutritious food.

OF&G believe in the need for a holistic and multi-dimensional approach to soil health and biodiversity enhancement.

Organic focuses not only on the amount of carbon stored in soils, but also on biodiversity protection, which requires a systemic transition of the farming system.

Organic producers already undertake regenerative practises, day in day out as they implement a clear and legally binding organic production standard. Organic farmers and businesses within the supply chain are annually audited for compliance. OF&G believe that there is no appetite or need to add to the regulatory burden with additional substantiation of so-called regenerative methods.

In the UK, organic farming is truly regenerative. OF&G believe the organic sector should communicate the already substantiated regenerative nature of organic production more openly and effectively.

This is not simply hubris: organic management shows a proven positive impact on soil-based greenhouse gas emissions and soil health. On average the climate protection performance of organic results in 1082 kg CO2 equivalent per hectare per year, due to lower GHG emissions and increased carbon sequestration in soils.

This is the outcome of the organic ‘regenerative’ principles and practises detailed in organic standards.

Download the full document for more detail