What does the world need? Obviously, another food label.
Amid growing concerns about the integrity of the USDA organic label, the Regenerative Organic Alliance announced its plan to promote a new food labeling program. Heralded as “organic-plus,” the certification would be available to producers who first certify for the federal organic program and then take things even further. The regenerative organic label would require additional compliance for animal welfare and soil health standards.
The claim is that the regenerative organic label is in response to consumer demands for more transparency. While the organic label has picked up more mainstream support, it now finds itself on the packages of major brand food products, not just specialty growers. Those companies that consider themselves a cut above everyone else (usually those that are light on facts and heavy on scare tactics regarding conventional agriculture) want to find a way to distinguish themselves. You know, the regenerative organic companies are really really organic, not like the farms that are just organic.
It’s like watching two Millennials argue over who takes better selfies.
Predictably, the whole regenerative organic label movement is promoting itself by sharing with consumers just how bad everyone else is. Gunnar Lovelace is the cofounder of Thrive Market, an online marketplace of organic food and beauty products. He recently spoke to Mic about the regenerative organic label, saying: “Neatly all social, economic, health and environmental crises we face as a species can, to some degree, be traced back to how we produce and consume food. … The USDA Organic seal is the most reliable way to ensure you’re buying food that’s been ethically produced.”
Sorry farmers, but Mr. Lovelace thinks you’re to blame for all societal, economic, health and environmental problems in the world. Nice guy.
On the other hand, maybe another food label is beneficial. We can create more and more confusion for consumers by cramming our food packaging with so many labels that no one pays attention anymore. We can boast about how organic-regenerative sales are soaring and forget to mention that’s because it just didn’t exist before. We can further divide agriculture by utilizing another label with meaningless distinctions.
Sadly, those are precisely the reasons these companies want another certified label. They will twist it and distort it, just like they did to the organic label, until organic-regenerative becomes meaningless, too. They will slap organic-regenerative labels on products in an effort to prey on consumer misconceptions. They will employ deceptive marketing campaigns to discredit both conventional and organic farmers.
The organic-regenerative label will become nothing more than a new vehicle to drive division, sow fear, and hike prices.
Despite what the regenerative organic forces want you to believe, all farmers have a vested interest in soil health, water quality, and animal welfare. No label will change that because our family farms only survive as long as we care about those things. Unfortunately, while some people are so worried about meeting some arbitrary standard, they miss out on opportunities that have a real impact on sustainability.
This is (yet another) label I will skip in the grocery store.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.