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Waldorf Salad: Biodynamic Farming PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Travis Roy   

I recently happened to catch a segment on New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth, entitled "Biodynamics: The Next Green Wine." The nearly nine minute segment focused on what biodynamics is, why it is being used in the wine industry, what sets it apart from organic and, of course, how it affects the products.

Biodynamic farming was introduced by Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf schools) in 1924 in response to farmers complaints about degraded soil conditions and health of crops and livestock due to the use of chemical fertilizers. It capitalizes on one of the biggest misconceptions about organic farming, namely that farming organically forgoes chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, organic farming allows all kinds of fertilizers and pesticides, but they can't be synthetic. (To further complicate the issue, the 2006 agricultural appropriations bill (passed back in December 2005) allowed the use of 38 synthetic ingredients in organic foods.)

The core of biodynamic farming is a collection of nine preparations that are supposed to transfer cosmic "forces" into the soil to aid fertilization. Most of them include some kind of very specific instructions for use that usually involve ritualistic methods. Preparation 505 is a good example; Oak bark (Quercus robur) is chopped into small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs past. The finished preparations are used in very small amounts, after being mixed into compost, inviting a comparison to so-called homeopathic remedies.

Planting, cultivating, and harvesting of crops are all planned with astronomical guidance, usually by the phases of the moon. Pest control is attempted by using small amounts of ash created by burning the offending pest or infected plant, yet another nod to homeopathy. Seeds must be gathered from the local plants to avoid getting your seed stock from large, multinational seed corporations.

So biodynamic farming turns out to be a bit of a hodgepodge of various other non-scientific disciplines, from homeopathy, to astrology, and includes some seemly religious rituals. But does it work? Most studies have shown little effect, and have attributed any effect that was observed to the extra care and use of compost from more normal methods of organic and sustainable farming.

So why do they do it? It turns out that the use of sulfates in winemaking makes it very hard to get an organic label on a bottle of wine. However, the different rules mean that it's far easier to put a biodynamic label on the same bottle. And vineyards that label their wines as "biodynamic" are able to charge more for them.

So what's the bottom line? It's hard to tell, since wine varies so greatly depending on where it's grown, the year, and various other conditions, like the weather, that are basically uncontrollable. Depending on the actual effort the vineyard puts in, and how much of a mark-up they charge for the biodynamic label, it could be worth the extra effort. And it certainly feeds the need that many consumers have, to search out things they perceive as better. Biodynamic has been said to be almost "super organic," which makes the allure that much greater for people looking to feel like they're doing that much better for the Earth, but in reality they seem to be paying for little more than rituals and wishful thinking.

Travis Roy is the founder of Granite State Skeptics. Modeled after Skeptics In The Pub, it is the place for like-minded individuals to hang out for informal discussion in New Hampshire.

From UFOs and ghosts, to psychics and alternative medicine, we examine all forms of pseudoscience and the paranormal from a responsible, scientific viewpoint.

Monthly meetings are hed on the 2nd Monday of the month at Milly's Tavern in Manchester, NH. For more info, go to www.granitestateskeptics.org.

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written by MadScientist, September 04, 2009
Cool - so is that Wiccan approved or do the Wiccans disapprove because of the domesticated animal sacrifice?

Unfortunately wine processors around the world have gone ga-ga with putting sulphites into the wine (both red and white). The sulphite content doesn't seem to be regulated nor do manufacturers seem to be required to state that they use sulphites (although they have to tell you if they use fish bladders as a clarification agent). So there are fewer and fewer wines which I can drink; many have so much sodium sulphite that it's as pleasant as pouring a cigarette ash slurry on my tongue. I need to visit Italy more frequently and drink their vino locale. Then again, quantum multi vinum bibi ...
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written by Andrew Wiggin, September 04, 2009
I must be remembering something different when I'm thinking about biodynamic farming. I'll have to dig out some old books and check but I don't remember anything being in there about ritualisticly packing oak bark into animal skulls, or any woo at all, really. It was based on getting the soil aerated through trenching and backfilling, with the use of leaf mold, manure, and compost in rather large proportion. It's very effective, but with the downside of being labor intensive and requiring wooden walkways over the soil to prevent it from being recompacted.

Andrew
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All in a wasted cause ...
written by Mark P, September 04, 2009
It's useless for wine. In the end the consumer buys what tastes nice for vegetable products, regardless of how it is made. I buy free range eggs and chickens, but how grapes are grown is not an ethical issue.

The Europeans go all mental because the New World wineries (US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile) "cheat" by using mixed grapes, fermented in great metal vats with screw tops. But most consumers love value for money, not tradition. Only import restrictions prevent most of Europe's wineries from going to the wall against better forms of making wine. Appeals to "tradition" sell well politically, but not in supermarkets.

The "biodynamic" farmers have a niche perhaps, but it will always remain a niche. If it became popular, then the trendies that love it would lose their interest, despite their protestations. And to remain a niche it has to be irrationally based, because if it was rationally based ALL the wineries would do it. This is not a stationary industry: they are always on the look out for new methods. Well, ones that work anyway.
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written by bosshog, September 05, 2009
All this fuss and bother to take on a load of ethanol...
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Our spiritual science at work, aka anthroposiphy.
written by CasaRojo, September 05, 2009
Steiner was a prolific writer on everything and anything that he could *imagine*.
According to their webpage there are 119 public/private Waldorf schools in the US. ---> http://www.members.awsna.org/P...tPage.aspx

I find all things Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf related to be suspect and should be intensely questioned and investigated.

Information and personal anecdotes here---> http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles.html
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written by BF, September 05, 2009
@Mark P
This post is quite OT, but somehow I felt I had to put some other views on what Europeans go mental about smilies/wink.gif
I happen to be a European who lives in a (not necessarily well-known) wine-growing region (German side of the upper Moselle), so some comments:
First, in Germany the amount of imported wine from overseas is continuously growing, in fact, according to the census bureau, in 2007 the USA are ranking as no. 4, Chile as no. 5 and Australia as no. 6 on the scale of countries Germany imports wine from.
Also, mixing of grapes is not regarded as 'cheating'. In fact, some of the best regarded and most expensive French red wines from the Bordeaux are made of mixtures, and even the German wine law, which is generally regarded as overly restrictive, allows this to some extent.
What is regarded as cheating though are methods and practices that artificially influence the taste of the wine (concentration of the grape juice, usage of wood-chips to simulate Barrique-ripening), etc). This does not include fermenting the wine in metal vats. You will hardly find any wooden vats with a European wine producer any more (except Barrique or things like that for ripening, as mentioned), and nobody uses 'wild' yeast . The idea of what is regarded as 'cheating' here is quite simple: the character of the wine as product of the specific year and vineyard/region must be preserved. You can call this 'appeals to "tradition"', but these appeals target the product, not the production method. And this is also not the result of some 'snobbish' attitude that wants to keep wine as some elite product. Quite the contrary: Go to any wine-growing region in Europe. Everywhere you will find it's part of daily life and consumed throughout the (adult) population. But in one point I fully agree (like all of the wine growers I know): 'Biodynamics' is quackery. Steiner was simply nuts, and the 'Biodynamics' only the harmless part of his teachings.
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Spelling does matter
written by Michieux, September 05, 2009
Whilst the artical is of interst, I sqirm evry time I see words like "effect" being used when "affect" is ment. Pour spellers usualy make pour thinkers. Buy a bloody dictionery -- that is -- if you can even reed.
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@Michieux
written by CasaRojo, September 05, 2009
effect - consequence: a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon;

affect - have an effect upon;

I wouldn't worry about it. But you can. And there's a number of reasons for misspelled words and most have nothing to do with being a poor thinker. I get it! You're just being a silly pain in the arse. Neveryoumind then.

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@Michieux...
written by Michael K Gray, September 05, 2009
I counted 9 spelling errors in your short post.
A POE, perhaps?
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written by bigjohn756, September 05, 2009
@BF
Kenner trinken Württemberger.
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written by Zorazen, September 05, 2009
"Organic" is a term that is regulated by the government. Is "biodynamic" regulated? If not, then is the term useless? Could I start a winery and simply claim that I am biodynamic?
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written by Steel Rat, September 05, 2009
New Hampshire Pubic Radio's


No one noticed that??
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written by Steel Rat, September 05, 2009
I'd comment on the wine thing, but I don't drink, and really don't get what all the fuss is about. It's all crap to me.
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written by BF, September 05, 2009
@bigjohn756
Kenner trinken Württemberger.

smilies/cheesy.gif Naja, ich muss sagen, dass ich den Würtemberger Wein erst einigermaßen kennen- und schätzen gelernt habe, als ich eine Freundin aus der Region hatte.
Allerdings bin ich beim Weißwein ein ziemliches Geschöpf meiner Herkunft: Obermosel, Mittelmosel und Saar. Beim Roten darf es ruhig was anderes sein, damit sind wir hier nämlich nicht sehr gesegnet.
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@ CasaRojo
written by Another pain in the arse, September 06, 2009
effect - consequence: a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon;

affect - have an effect upon;

I wouldn't worry about it. But you can. And there's a number of reasons for misspelled words and most have nothing to do with being a poor thinker. I get it! You're just being a silly pain in the arse. Neveryoumind then.

You should pick the verb-definition for effect, not the noun-definition.
effect: "to produce as an effect; bring about; accomplish; make happen"

Having an effect on something or causing it as an effect are rather different things.
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Puhlease...
written by CasaRojo, September 06, 2009
Can we get a bit more semantical? smilies/grin.gif

I understand that communicating an idea can be difficult and clarity is important but I think that most intelligent people can grasp concepts correctly without absolute *perfect* use of language. Please don't get me wrong as I appreciate the education but I fear that this conversation has deviated far from anything that is useful to the topic. And I'll bet that everyone here understands what Roy means with his use of the term, "effect". And I think that they totally understood before someone had a problem with it.
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And furthermore...
written by Michieux, September 06, 2009
Steel Rat gets my vote. smilies/grin.gif
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written by Steel Rat, September 06, 2009
National Pubic Radio, news and commentary for the nether regions...
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@Steel Rat,
written by CasaRojo, September 06, 2009
Must be part of the grocery store chain, Pubix. smilies/tongue.gif
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Thoughts from a wine-drinking gardener...
written by SeavyCarr, September 07, 2009
So could someone tell me 'cos I'm now seriously confused, is my home-grown veg plot organic, biodynamic, both or neither?

The caterpillars on the cabbages are carefully removed to the non-food brassicas in the 'wild bed' where they can stuff themselves without retribution. We don't spray the greenfly with chemical bug-killer as my young sons find it much more fun to turn the garden hose to 'mean and nasty' instead. I admit to watching the skies - it's much easier to stamp on the slugs when the moon is full and bright - but the only skulls in the garden formerly belonged to assorted pet hamsters and goldfish, respectfully buried in shoe-boxes - after they died - and with no kind of stuffing. Oh, and my cosmic forces come from my compost heap, cooked according to an ancient formula handed down from a wise and ancient grandad to anyone who'd listen - peelings, clippings and horse-sh*t.

'Biodynamic' sounds such an eco-friendly word, but I don't think I qualify. What am I doing wrong?
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@SeavyCarr
written by CasaRojo, September 07, 2009
U shud prolly pray more. smilies/grin.gif
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written by ciccio, September 12, 2009
Biodynamic, putting weird potions into the ground, praying over the seeds, planting with astrological guidance are all tried and tested methods used by the Babylonians a few thousand years ago.
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:3
written by Quakeulf, September 14, 2009
Taking this even further: I'm all for growing meat artificially. It's probably less costly, more hygienic, less demanding of resources and is likely to return a better profit than a real alternative like livestock. Bring on my meat-o-trons! :3~
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The WC as source on Steiner/Waldorf things
written by Thebee, September 28, 2009
For a description of and some comments on the WC-group, recommended by someone as "information" about things related to Steiner and Waldorf education, see http://americans4waldorf.org/OnPLANS.html
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@Thebee
written by CasaRojo, September 29, 2009
Good luck with your site and your ad homs towards PLANS. Your "AWE" site does nothing more than criticize the PLANS site for criticizing Waldorf/Steiner.You equate an anti Semitic site with the PLANS site which has NOTHING to do with PLANS. You're merely trying to play the victim.

From AWE: "Grasping anthroposophy requires that one come to grips with concepts concerning the essential being and nature of the human being as a physical and spiritual being, rooted in the thinking of Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas and later developed by Rudolf Steiner during the beginning of the 20th century".

The Waldorf educational system is very obviously based on Rudolf Steiner's own form of religion and absolutely should NOT be publicly funded and parents should be made aware of this up front. Your AWE site make many accusations and claims which are not backed up by independent hot linked sites. Your hot links merely link back to the AWE site. Like I said, good luck spreading your BS.
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