Biodynamic farming: flim-flam alert

by JulieCraves on January 28, 2007

Every so often when I am researching a coffee farm to determine if their methods preserve biodiversity, I come across one that uses “biodynamic” farming methods; some are even certified by the Demeter Association.

What the hell is biodynamic farming?

Biodynamic farming includes many of the concepts of organic farming and is based on the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and “social tinkerer.”  In the biodynamic view, the farm as a whole is seen as an organism, with heavy emphasis on the spiritual/holistic aspect.

For instance, planting of crops is done according to cosmic rhythms to enhance, for example, pest control by blocking the fertility influences of particular planets on particular pests.  The life forces of a farm are said to be strengthened by creating various homeopathic-like preparations (e.g., derived from flower blossoms stuffed into deer urinary bladders which have been placed in the sun during summer, buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring).  These are then placed in compost piles or manure. According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, “These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles.”  Using these preparations is required for Demeter certification, and the certification standards are built around the elaborate development of these concoctions.

A study published in the journal of the Soil Science Society of America (64:1651-1659) comparing soils fertilized with biodynamic versus nonbiodynamic compost found no differences in the various soil biotic parameters measured.  Another paper, in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, concluded that “Steiner’s instructions are occult and dogmatic and cannot contribute to the development of alternative or sustainable agriculture.”

While many of the organic aspects of biodynamic farming are positive, biodynamic certification is mostly meaningless and basically a marketing ploy. Considering that farms pay a $470 fee ($310 a year for renewals) plus annual inspection fees and a 0.5% royalty on gross sales, the most notable thing biodynamic certification adds to coffee is cost.

Revised on November 28, 2020

Posted in Certifications

Bettina October 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I have to disagree with this article, if they are going organic already why not do biodynamic? I also read the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association link. It says nothing about deer bladders, If you was to do more research you would see its cowhorns that are put underground while filled with manure.
And from what website or link did you get this …..“These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles.” Using these preparations is required for Demeter certification, and the certification standards are built around the elaborate development of these concoctions.
Because I could not find this statement in the links you provided.
Biodynamic is about giving back to the earth as much as it gives to us. Please rethink your thoughts on Biodynamic not just in coffee, in food and wine as well.

JACraves October 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

1. I did do my research. The deer bladder is used in “BD#502,” one of the biodynamic preparations. There are 9 of these developed by Steiner; the first two are prepared in cow horns. Others are prepared using various flowers and are mostly used to treat compost.
2. This post was written 3 years ago so the quote may not appear at the original web site, but it is a direct quote from Steiner. Google it, and you’ll find dozens of references to it.

There is nothing harmful or wrong about biodynamic farming. But beyond the organic practices, the homeopathic/holistic aspects have little basis in science. Is it worth paying extra for? In my opinion, not in and of itself.

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