On 20th November 2022, the UKOCG (UK Organic Certifiers Group) issued the following statement regarding organic and regenerative farming, which the OTB stands behind and fully supports:
Organic – the truly regenerative benchmark
◊ The early organic pioneers of the 1940s, such as Lady Eve Balfour and Albert Howard, recognised the link between soil health and the health of people. The post war drive for food focused solely on ever increasing farm yields and led to widespread adoption of fossil fuel derived fertilisers and synthetic pesticides. While cheap food became more abundant, this has come at a catastrophic cost to soil health, human health and our planet. By acknowledging how closely the soil, food and health are connected, organic production provides a genuine, ‘game changing’ alternative which has the good health of people, animals and the planet at its very heart.
◊ Given its long history as a pioneering movement, alongside the proven benefits to soil health, biodiversity and climate mitigation – organic is the benchmark for the new regenerative approach to farming.
◊ Because a living soil and a living world, and all that these represent, are so important, the use of synthetic fertilisers, biocides, and genetically modified crops are explicitly prohibited in organic standards. Organic livestock production also restricts antimicrobial use to avoid antibiotic resistance. It is these inputs that have disrupted ecosystems, reduced biodiversity, caused pollution and contributed to global warming.
◊ Organic producers undertake regenerative practices, day in, day out, those practices are maintained all year, every year. It is the positive practices that organic farmers use that make organic truly regenerative – these include diverse and balanced crop rotations, use of legumes and green manures for fertility instead of chemical fertilisers, application of organic matter and compost, non-chemical based approaches to weed pest and disease control, encouraging natural predators and prioritising the health and welfare of livestock. It is these practices that deliver important outcomes of organic farming and growing for positive health, biodiversity enhancement and climate mitigation.
◊ The adoption of practices used by organic farmers in mainstream agriculture will improve the sustainability of the food systems they supply. The more farmers adopting regenerative practices the more impact it will have to deliver critical outcomes such as carbon capture. Organic was the first and is still the most widely adopted, legally defined and truly regenerative food and farming method.
◊ The organic standard underwrites this truly regenerative approach, as an internationally recognised and legally binding standard across the entire supply chain. A true farm to fork system with clearly defined practices, outputs, impact and intent. All organic food and farming businesses are annually audited for compliance to the organic standard and are already delivering the outcomes that regenerative aims for.
◊ Organic standards are a not a ceiling but a threshold (a minimum that must be complied with). The organic principles set out by the pioneers of the movement mean that organic farmers frequently go far beyond these standards in their mission to secure the best outcomes they can. This is a practice of continuously innovating and evolving practices to meet the changing needs of specific soil, microclimate and ecology while championing social, ecological and technological innovation. Organic food and farming delivers multiple benefits simultaneously, there can be no single metric that should excel at the expense of others, everything has to be in balance.
◊ Agricultural food production and forestry are highly exposed to the impact of rising global temperatures: increased fluctuations in weather disrupt farming cycles, with changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, storms, and floods all posing a challenge to farmers.
◊ Organic food can improve our own health and enable rural economies to flourish.
◊ To overcome the challenges we face, we must produce food whilst working in harmony with nature, harnessing its power to protect our soils, landscapes, and wildlife for future generations. Farming and growing organically is tough and requires meticulous planning because organic producers can’t resort to synthetic fertilisers and pesticides if problems are encountered. This means that organic practices create resilient and robust production systems.
◊ Scientific evidence consistently shows that organic soils store more water, help mitigate against flooding, and set the regenerative standard by storing on average +25% more carbon, helping farmers adapt to climate uncertainty, reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. Organic farms also restore and regenerate biodiversity. On average, organic farms are 50% more abundant with wildlife, hosting up to 34% more species.
◊ Continuing development of new technology is helping to develop new innovative techniques for organic farming and growing, and quantify the positive impact across our soil, landscape, food and climate. Innovation in organic production is optimising, low input, closed loop, high yielding, resilient systems that implement the concept of ecological intensification, which will mean less costs and better production outcomes for farmers. Innovation has the potential to further improve the positive outcomes of organic farming and growing. Widespread adoption of organic principles, practices and standards will advance the delivery of positive impact on the soil and its ability to hold water, nutrients, microbes, wildlife and carbon.
◊ Organic has, for seventy years, protected our ecosystems, our soil, our planet and the health and welfare of our livestock, and is still most widely adopted legally verified truly regenerative food and farming method.
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less travelled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
Rachel Carson – Author of “The Silent Spring”. A ground-breaking book that ultimately gave birth to the modern-day environmental movement when it was published in 1962.
Study: Organic soils are around 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term. Ghabbour, E. A., et al (2017) ‘National Comparison of the Total and Sequestered Organic Matter Contents of Conventional and Organic Farm Soils’, Advances in Agronomy, 146, 1-35. [twice as spongey related to 44% higher humic acid] – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0065211317300676