How regenerative agriculture and organic farming helps the earth – Food Dive

Posted: November 9, 2019 at 10:46 am


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Shauna Sadowski is head of sustainability for the Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills.

Last month, PBS published an article that explored how more organic farming could worsen global warming.

The article discusses a recent study, which predicts that a shift to 100% organic food production in the U.K. could result in higher greenhouse gas emissions. The finding is driven by the assumption that a significant yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture exists, and lower crop yields in the UK would require increased production elsewhere, offsetting any decrease in greenhouse gas emissions conferred by organic farming practices.

Toward the end of the article, the writer cites a studyfrom the RodaleInstitute that suggests implementing a suite of regenerative agriculture practices, like cover cropping and diverse crop rotations, has the potential to effectively cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

Shauna Sadowski

While it is encouraging to see regenerative agriculture featured in the article, it is important to remember that many organic farmers are already employing regenerative practices. And while definitions of regenerative do vary, it is important to recognize and celebrate where all farmers have made inroads and where there is opportunity to do more.

At General Mills, we take a holistic, inclusive and outcomes-based approach to regenerative agriculture. We define it as farming that protects and intentionally enhances natural resources and farming communities. Key tenets of organic agriculture include moving away from synthetic pesticides and herbicides, maintaining and building soil health, and improving biodiversity aligning with the spirit of regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture can be practiced by organic and non-organic farmers alike, rendering the approach accessible to all types of farmers regardless of their starting point. General Mills frames its understanding of regenerative agriculture around five key principles championed by scientists and pioneering farmers like Gabe Brown: minimize soil disturbance, maximize diversity, keep the soil covered, keep a living root in the ground year-round and integrate livestock.

General Mills, as the PBS article acknowledges, works with farmers who employ regenerative agriculture practices to grow ingredients used across our product portfolio, from organic offerings like Annie's and CascadianFarm to iconic brands like Cheerios and Nature Valley.

Unfortunately, this article falls short on presenting a holistic lens into the food system and the nuanced role that organic can play in landscapes and communities. There are several omissions and misleading assertions we'd like to address:

The article fails to mention the study's finding that transitioning to organic would result in 20% lower emissions per ton of crop, compared with a conventional baseline.

Production is an important metric of success for the food system, but it is not the only metric worth considering.

A narrow focus on the organic-conventional yield gap sidesteps the fact that we waste one-third of the food we produce globally.

The predictions cited in the article are based on models, not actual outcomes.

At General Mills, we celebrate the important role that organic farmers play in helping us better understand the negative consequences of farming practices that disrupt ecosystems. As regenerative agriculture builds momentum, we can thank organic pioneers like Gene Kahn for elevating the importance of farming practices that have the potential to not only sustain, but to restore our land. At the same time, it's important for farmers to autonomously choose the practices that best align with their land stewardship philosophies and the region-specific needs of their land. All farmers organic, conventional, small, large, crop and livestock are part of the path toward a healthy food system.

This article is an important reminder to keep improving our measurement systems and supporting an outcomes-based approach so that all of agriculture,organic included, can move away from being a big part of the climate problem to instead be a big part of the climate solution.

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How regenerative agriculture and organic farming helps the earth - Food Dive

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November 9th, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in Organic Food