The Rodale Institute plans to unveil its new Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) at this week’s Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, California. ROC was developed by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a coalition of organizations and businesses led by the Rodale Institute and spearheaded by brands like Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s.
The USDA organic standard is the “bedrock” of the new certification, notes a recent press release. Only USDA farms and ranches that have already achieved the organic certification will be eligible for ROC, which boasts higher-bar standards for soil health, ecological management, animal welfare, and fairness for farmers and workers.
"I don't think it's going to replace organic, that's not our goal, but rather to build on it," says Jeff Moyer, Executive Director of the Rodale Institute.
The Alliance recognizes standards such as Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, Fair for Life, Fairtrade International, Agricultural Justice Project, and multiple others, and many of the policies covered by these certification programs have been incorporated into the ROC standard.
“By already having some these certifications, farmers, and ranchers will be on their way to achieve ROC certification,” explains an Alliance rep.
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The soil health element of the certification is a true innovation on the part of the Rodale Institute, going above and beyond what is required by the certified organic label with regards to carbon sequestering and soil building.
"While the USDA standard does pay lip service to soil [...] soil really is not a cornerstone of what many people are looking at as they're thinking about organic," explains Moyer. "We want to make sure that soil health and soil remains a cornerstone of what we believe is regenerative organic system would look like."
The ROC standard will also require that certified farmers and ranchers prove that they are continuously improving their systems, making them even more sustainable and regenerative.
The Alliance notes that “there is enthusiastic interest” surrounding ROC from brands in both the food and fiber spaces. Pilot audits will launch in the next few months.
“It’s imperative we act now to mitigate climate change," says David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s. "We need to shift our food production system to make regenerative organic agriculture the new model, both locally and globally.”
Other founding members of the new certification include Compassion in World Farming, Demeter, Fair World Project, Grain Place Foods, Maple Hill Creamery, and White Oak Pastures.
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