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BioDynamics = Magical Agriculture

16/03/2008

O.k. I’m going to take a deep breath and try not to flip out about this.

I was looking through some of my favorite Aussie blogs on sustainable living and the simple life today, and having a nice leisurely time about it. You see, I’ve taken refuge in the Aussie blogs because every time I look through similar American blogs, I find out that many people living the simple life in America are either hippies or the kind of people who homeschool their children in order to teach them bad science.

My little bubble of secularism and reason was rudely popped when I saw a link on an otherwise lovely blog for this: Biodynamic Agriculture Australia.

Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with biodynamics, it may sound as reasonable as organic farming. I personally have no real problem with organic farming, per se. It’s an ideal farming method for small farmers as it does not require the use of chemicals manufactured in labs by chemical companies. <mini-rant>There is not, however and evidence that organic vegetables or products are any healthier, tastier or better than non-organically farmed ones. It also does not guarantee that the product is any more ethically produced nor does it necessarily mean (anymore) that the product was made by a small farmer or independent company. The word “organic” has become a marketing tool that makes people buy things that are more expensive. </mini-rant>

Biodynamics, however, is just plain silly. It is a combination of astrology and homeopathy applied to agriculture. It was made up by a guy in 1924 and, well, look for yourself:

Field preparations, for stimulating humus formation:

  • 500: (horn-manure) a humus mixture prepared by filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground (40ā€“60 cm below the surface) in the autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered for use the following spring.
  • 501: Crushed powdered quartz prepared by stuffing it into a horn of a cow and buried into the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. It can be mixed with 500 but usually prepared on its own (mixture of 1 tablespoon of quartz powder to 250 liters of water) The mixture is sprayed under very low pressure over the crop during the wet season to prevent fungal diseases. It should be sprayed on an overcast day or early in the morning to prevent burning of the leaves.

Both 500 and 501 are used on fields by stirring about one teaspoon of the contents of a horn in 40ā€“60 liters of water for an hour and whirling it in different directions every second minute.

That’s right, they crush up crystals and sprinkle them on the crops. It’s about as scientific as ridding yourself of a wart by selling it.

(EDIT: Here’s how the above two preparations are described on the BAA website (emphasis on pseudoscience terms, mine):

Horn Manure Preparation (500) is used to enliven the soil, increasing the microflora and availability of nutrients and trace elements. Through it the root growth, in particular, is strengthened in a balanced way, especially the fine root hairs. Develops humus formation, soil structure and water holding capacity.

Horn Silica Preparation (501) enhances the light and warmth assimilation of the plant, leading to better fruit and seed development with improved flavour, aroma, colour and nutritional quality.

A lot less useful information, a lot of claims that essentially have no meaning.)

Here’s how biodynamics gets rid of pests:

  • Pests such as insects or field mice (Apodemus) have more complex processes associated with them, depending on what pest is to be targeted. For example field mice are to be countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.
  • Weeds are combatted (besides the usual mechanical methods) by collecting seed from the weeds and burning them above a wooden flame. The ashes from the seeds are then spread on the fields, which is intended to block the influence from the full moon on the particular weed and make it infertile.

What. The. F***? Do I need to give another analogy to express how stupid that sounds?

Like homeopathy and chiropractic, “biodynamics” is a word that sounds nice and science-y. It also appeals to anti-authority and agriculture, like medicine, is often seen as a big faceless entity controlled by corporations and an elite few. However, “biodynamics” is a protected term. There is an organisation that holds the right to it, and you need their approval to use it on your products. (Seriously, how anti-authority is that?) I’ve seen this term cropping up (oops, bad pun) everywhere. It’s on products, produce, shop signs and everywhere I see it, I instantly want to grab somebody’s shoulders and yell, “This is ridiculous! Why are they trying to sell me this?? Why can’t I just have normal yogurt???”

I am all for ethical products, local farmers and eating healthy whole foods. I am totally supportive of the simple life and I’m really interest in self sufficiency, but when self sufficiency means using magic to make your tomatoes grow redder and fatter, count me out. I’ll stick with real scientific farming methods like good rich soil, plenty of sunlight and regular watering.

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4 Comments
  1. emmajeans permalink
    17/03/2008 10:36 am

    http://frugalabundance.com/
    I found this website from the homeschooling website you linked to. In frugal abundance “Miss Maggie” lists her hobbies, which include “serving God, sewing, wearing a headcovering and dressing modestly”. Okay, serving God, I can see as a hobby; sewing is certainly a hobby. But… dressing modestly and wearing a headcovering??? How on Gods’ green earth does that constitute a hobby (i.e. ‘activity pursued for interest or relaxation’?) Sorry for ranting in your comments, but… dude!

    I *totally* didn’t realise that ‘BioDynamic’ was a registered trademark, and thought it was an (essentially meaningless) adjective like ‘new’ and ‘lite’ or whatever…
    And, I mean, I’ve heard of using minerals as a soil enhancer (like all good vegetarians, I don’t like using blood and bone in my garden; and certain rocks are good to help with various mineral traces)… but quartz? In a cow horn???

    Hooray for more things to boycott for their essential stupidity!

  2. Trithemius permalink
    18/03/2008 5:42 am

    @ emmajeans: Maybe her modest clothing includes *extremely* comfortable slacks or some type?

  3. Trithemius permalink
    18/03/2008 5:43 am

    Also: now I am thinking about magical agriculture for game-culture-design purposes. Thanks Liz! šŸ™‚

  4. garth barker permalink
    25/08/2008 11:54 am

    help!
    i am exhausted.
    yesterday i launched the boycott biodynamic, buy organic society.
    today i have discovered that the organic industry’s peak body, Organic Federation of Australia, and NASAA, an organic certifying authority, both fail to distinguish organic from biodynamic. i would have thought that the organic industry (scientific) would be at war with the biodynamic (unscientific) but this is not the case. the people who certify organic are also happy to certify biodynamic. thus, a product labeled organic is of dubious value. similarly, and more worryingly, the australian federal government fails to differentiate between organic and biodynamic. it has eastablished a National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. now how you can establish a rational standard for, what i consider to be magic, superstition and astrology is beyond me. it must be a world first. This National Standard is a regulatory instrument of the responsible authority, in this case the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service which comes under the dept of agriculture, fisheries, and forrestry (DAFF). the minister is tony burke. in the Daff website i have found statements like “Organic farming systems include those referred to as biodynamic or biological.” Daff also refers to rudolf steiner as if he had some legitimacy. here is my little flyer for the society:
    BIODYNAMICS – WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE?
    There is none. Biodynamics is based on superstition, magic, and astrology. it does not admit to scientific evaluation.

    BIODYNAMICS – WHO BENEFITS?
    Most products labeled “biodynamic” are certified by a multi-national corporation called Demeter. This corporation is run by a secret organization located in Switzerland which holds occult beliefs.

    BIODYNAMICS – WHAT’S THE HARM?
    Do you want to support occult beliefs? Do you want your children to think being superstitious is OK? Biodynamic practices have a bigger environmental footprint than scientifically proven organic agriculture.

    KEEP IT SIMPLE.
    SAY NO TO BIODYNAMICS – BUY ORGANIC.

    however, i don’t know what to think now. who can trust the people who certify organic produce?
    i am too exhausted to read your website.
    can anyone offer cult exit couselling?

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