Move Over GMOs…Hello, Regenerative Organic Ag!

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There is more than one way to feed the world. For two decades, Big Ag wanted the food industry to believe that the only way was their way, with GMO seeds and agrochemicals. This concept was highly profitable, as their proprietary GMOs were patented life forms with technology fees 40% higher than non-GMO seeds that farmers could no longer save. The corporations’ chemicals (like glyphosate, dicamba, atrazine, and 2,4-D) reaped them billions in profits annually. Shareholders were happy to be repeatedly told that these chemicals were safe and effective.

Then, mothers got wind of the actual science. And they marched in parades and on streets all across the country and around the world. Millions signed petitions, demonstrated, sent letters to food companies, and stopped buying GMO foods. Sales for organic surged. The former Board President of Moms Across America, Laurie Olson, stated, “When we first started marching in 4th of July parades (2013) one out of 50 people knew about GMOs. Now, five years later (2018), one out of 50 don’t know about GMOs. I am proud to be a part of that process.”

Successful Farmer magazine put a mother in the grocery store aisle in front of a shopping cart with a toddler on her hip on the cover with the headline “Meet Your New Boss.” The industry was starting to understand that if mothers didn’t buy it, they couldn’t sell it and shouldn’t bother making it or growing it.

According to Nielsen figures reported by the Organic Trade Association in 2016, 82% of U.S. households surveyed reported buying some organic products. A research report from Rabobank found retail organic food sales in the U.S. reached $47.9 billion in 2018. Organic became the fastest-growing market in the food industry, and in supplements, cosmetics, household products, and lifestyle products. It became painfully clear to manufacturers: It is time to source new clean, organic ingredients and materials.

Supplement manufacturers at Supply Side West in 2019 admitted, “Oh, we know that the consumers want organic. Supplement companies are scrambling to source organic ingredients. We know it is all going in that direction; it’s just a matter of who can get there faster.”

A supplement ingredient supplier said, “We are not only sourcing organic; we are batch testing for glyphosate and heavy metals too because if we don’t, someone else will. They are testing, and you never know when.” Not having organic ingredients, free of GMOs, glyphosate, and toxins, is a significant problem for supplement companies.

As consumers shifted to organic, the Paris Climate Accord news reached all corners of the world and diverse demographics. Suddenly, farming practices were being pinpointed as part of the problem and as part of the solution. Regenerative International, Rodale Institute, Savory Institute, and Organic Consumers Association were speaking about the concept of regenerative organic agriculture, cover crops, managed pasture grazing, and carbon sequestration. Increasing organic matter in the soil with regenerative organic farming practices by just 0.4% meant farmers could draw down all of the carbon currently in the air (at that time) in 25 years. Farmers could be a part of saving life on Earth. This was a call to action that resonated around the world.

Some big food corporations such as Cargill even began promoting cover cropping and regenerative farming. However, the practice (undoubtedly championed by Bayer, Dow/Dupont) of growing a cover crop and then spraying it with glyphosate to kill it (rather than Mother Nature, i.e., frost) began to take hold.

Regenerative farming is not regulated; a new certification Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), has been developed. Whether a farmer takes on the ROC label or expands from organic to regeneratively grown organic, transparency and integrity are crucial.

Upon further inspection, the food movement reluctantly agreed that many organic farming practices were part of the problem. It wasn’t just GMO mono-crop farmers that were tilling the soil for weed prevention; organic farmers were tilling as well. The earth’s deep tilling released carbon into the air and contributed to climate chaos, whether the crops planted were GMO or organic. This was a challenging concept for avid organic supporters to swallow.

Organic farming does have many benefits and is necessary for reducing climate change. The primary one is not spraying poison that harms the farmers, microorganisms in the soil, beneficial plants (aka weeds) that host pollinators, and pest predators, pets, and consumers. The absence of these toxic chemicals means that the soil likely contains higher nutrients, organic matter, retains more water, and is safer for consumers and wildlife. But tilling it disrupts those soil properties and must be discontinued to support maximum carbon sequestration. Whether you are of the crowd that believes climate chaos is being caused by human activity or not, science now shows that sequestering carbon through regenerative organic farming practices benefits the planet. The absence of human activity in the soil, letting Mother Nature do her job, is the solution.

For instance, regenerative organic farming, which uses crimping methods to flatten out the cover crops, creates a living mulch that protects the soil microorganisms (no tilling) and increases organic matter. One inch of increased organic matter in the soil retains 20,000 gallons more water per acre. Farmers in drought-risk areas would be wise to consider regenerative organic farming.

The increased organic matter and water retention in the soil mean more beneficial microorganisms and higher nutrient density in the soil and the plants. Higher nutrient density means better quality crops, more pest resistance, and minimal crop damage. It also means that consumers do not need to consume as much food, leading to smaller portions and better health.

Regeneratively grown organic food is the key. Savvy moms and consumers want it now because we need food that is good for the planet and reduces climate chaos. Time is of the essence. The safety of current and future generations depend on our daily choices.

Farmers like Mark Doudlah of Doudlah Farms see the writing on the wall. He is a sixth-generation conventional farmer who kicked the agrochemicals habit and transitioned to organic with regenerative practices after his father died in 2011. His goal went from the Monsanto-influenced “Feeding the World” mantra to the mother-driven mantra for “nutrient-dense safe food.” He recently offered a direct-to-consumer CSA Health Share program to Moms Across America supporters and ships nationwide.

Image courtesy of Moms Across America.

There is a wide-open opportunity for food manufacturers to have a whole new marketing angle: nutrient-dense, safe food from regenerative organic farms. Proving that nutrient density is higher in regeneratively grown organic food will need to be an ongoing process, batch by batch, as previous soil treatments and drift will impact results. But a food manufacturer that is willing to take on nutrient testing  ($20 each test from some labs) and seek out organic farmers using regenerative practices will result in new marketing opportunities that will massively appeal to mothers who influence the market. Seeing as mothers buy 85% of the food, and their focus is now on health, nutrient-dense safe food that reduces climate chaos, now is the time to say Buh-Bye GMOs and Hello to regeneratively grown organic food.

Related: #NaturallyInformed: From Farm to Conference
Regenerative Agriculture in the Age of COVID-19 & Beyond
Regenerative Agriculture: 25 Things to Know Now

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