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lundi, 10 décembre 2012

BIODYNAMICS

BYODANAMICS: A PERTINENT CONCEPT SHADOWED BY THE EXTRAVAGANCIES OF ITS INVENTOR


Claude Gilois

The Biodynamic theory is firstly a reaction against the predominance of the chemical agriculture model established by Baron Von Liebig in the middle of the nineteenth century. When Steiner presented his ideas in 1924, he was a precursor and the first one to raise objections against chemical agriculture some 25 years before the chemical industry would become totally dominant after the war in 1945.  He rebels against the chemical inputs, which degrade the soil, hence, the quality of food. To establish such a diagnostic, at that time, was truly remarkable and it would take a good fifty years before this topic would come back to the fore. The central concept of biodynamics is the wholeness of the farm in which all elements, cattle, trees, cultures and fields are in an equilibrium which is orchestrated by planetary cycles that have so far not been studied and whose existence is still in doubt.

 

It is worth noting that organic farming comes from Steiner’s work and vision of biodynamic farming and could be described as biodynamics without   Steiner’s genius or extravagances depending on your point of view.   In both types of farming, the chemical input is replaced by concoctions and infusions that contain nettles, fern, absinthe, quartz and silicon.  The planting (sowing) calendar is done according to lunar and planetary influences.  

Steiner argues that Biodynamics is not merely a simple list of alternative recipes and concoctions; it is all about “Thinking, Feeling, and Doing’ things differently and you have to have an ‘inner feeling’ to practice correctly.

So far so good; it all makes sense.

Steiner also argues that it would be good if users of  Biodynamics could meditate. In this way they could become highly receptive to the revelation of nitrogen as you can practice agriculture in a totally different spirit when you have become receptive to the revelation of nitrogen.

One get the feeling here that the whole thing is starting to drift.

Cosmic laws are of prime importance for Steiner and he identifies two major cosmic forces. Firstly, the terrestrial force which works from inside living creatures towards the exterior.  Secondly the cosmic force which is emitted by celestial bodies  such as Mars, Jupiter, Venus and the moon.

Ladies and gentlemen we are about to encounter turbulence please fasten you seatbelts.

And Steiner to declare: ‘In the red of rose you can see Mars’ force {…} the force of Jupiter colours the flowers in white or yellow…[…] In an apple it is Jupiter that you eat […] and in the plum it is Saturn.

Simple you only had to think about it.

 

The use of cows’ horns and cow horn manure  are central to the theory of Steiner who adds ‘Now that we have buried the cow’s horn full of manure, we keep in the forces that the horn used to exert on the inside of the cow when it was alive and  that is to reflect the ‘etheric’ and ‘astral’ forces’.  Steiner  continues  ’With the horn being buried in the ground and surrounded by earth, all the cosmic rays that flow in the direction of  ‘etherisation’ and  ‘astralisation’ will converge and penetrate in the cavity that they have constituted.

etheric & astral.gif

The interactions between mind and body according to Steiner

For Steiner, deer’s antlers are important as they allow the animal to enjoy  close contact with, perhaps not the earth itself, but its environment and it  interacts with  cosmic parts.  So you will find in the bladder of  deer - albeit in very small amounts - forces that are in relation, not with the interior of the organism, as with cattle, but with forces from the cosmos.

 

Enterrement-des-bouses-de-corne-Horn-dung-burying-4.jpg

Cow horn manure being burried

You could be forgiven to think that Steiner is tripping on LSD or on  magic mushrooms, and we could go on and on filling pages with the same similar nonsense.

 

There is a naive and baroque aspect in Steiner’s theory. The spiritual side has an almost mystical feel even drawing, at times, towards the religious.  It is not surprising when you look at Steiner’s background as we did last week, no need to try to find any rational or scientific basis on the theory as there is none. Nevertheless there is a candid, almost  poetic dimension to his work on biodynamics which is far from the charlatanism that he is sometimes being accused of. It is perhaps why quite a few top viticultural domains in the world have embraced his theory and have converted their vineyards to biodynamic farming without any validation whatsoever. To the mystery of these fabulous terroirs is added the myth of biodynamics that further enhances their enigmatic   aura.    Biodynamics and great terroirs are made for one another

 

The few articles published in reviewed peer articles have either put into question the methodology used for the studies, as is the case for the one carried out in Switzerland and published in 2002, or have shown very little difference between biodynamic farming and organic farming.

It is unlikely that high calibre research will be undertaken in the future as it is difficult to see how governmental institutes such as the INRA in France would want to get involved with such extravagant ideas. Even if research were to take place and reveal the lack of efficacy of biodynamics,  it would be criticised  on the basis that researchers did not have the necessary ‘inner feeling’  to implement it.

 

Biodynamic cows.jpg

The most interesting part of Steiner’s theory on biodynamics lies in its refusal to embrace the dominant model impulsed by the chemical industry at that time.  His concept of interactions of various living components is remarkable;  he was the first to acknowledge the concept of eco-systems. As such he is probably the first ecologist to have existed.  It is on these two important concepts that the principle of organic agriculture was established leaving aside the illuminations and hallucinations of Steiner’s personality, not that burying cows' horns full of manure is likely to disturb ecosystems significantly. The placebo effect has its part to play here. It is, however, noticeable how cautious journalists and writers are when it comes to assess biodynamics, most of them preferring to sit on the fence and not voice a clear opinion.

 

The substitution of synthetic chemical products by natural ones is not without problems as many of these, such as arsenic, nicotine, rotenone and pyritene are toxic substances for plants, animals and human beings. It would be very useful to conduct a proper evaluation of their toxicity to see whether the controlled use of more efficient synthetic chemicals would not be preferable to using repeated treatment of less efficient substances, let alone the carbon footprints generated by such interventions. 

 

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