HONEY, I SHRUNK THE FARM ADVISOR!

I went and it was painful – both physically and mentally.  Eight hours on old fashioned metal folding chairs and then listening to a love fest for all things Biodynamic.  A very good lunch was catered by the Silverado Brewing Company, but they didn’t bring their beer — that I desperately needed.

 Overall impressions:

 Good for Demeter USA to have a sold out event with almost 200 folks in attendance and for snookering the University of California into violating their ethics pledge and sponsoring this event.  While I think Biodynamics is bogus, I have to tip my hat to Demeter for a well thought-out and well executed event.  There is absolutely no question, it was a sales and marketing event for Demeter USA to sell their product, Biodynamic farming.   There was no balance to the presentation; it was Biodynamics and nothing but Biodynamics.  The speakers did a fine job presenting why they were involved with Biodynamic farming and one of the speakers even said “I flew here from Oregon because I want other people to do Biodynamics.”  

 I can say without any reservation that Demeter USA should have been the sole sponsor.  UCCE clearly violated their own code of ethics by being a sponsor – shame on the University for their poor judgment.  Dr. Andy Waterhouse (Chair of the Dept. of V & E, UC Davis) was there and asked my friend if he was a Biodynamic supporter and mentioned the controversy.  My friend said that he was not, that he was there for a client and that it was wrong for the University to be sponsoring this event.  Dr. Waterhouse skulked away. 

Elizabeth Candelario, Marketing Director for Demeter, made it clear in her opening remarks that “Biodynamic farming is just sound farming” and while you shouldn’t embrace Biodynamic farming for the marketing, she pointed out that consumers, retailers and the media want more Biodynamic products.  She clearly knows how to bait a hook.  She also invited and I would assume comped Wilfred Wong, Cellarmaster of BevMo, and several sommeliers.  Again, a smart outreach to those who can help the pull-through of Biodynamic wines.   

Later in the morning Glenn McGourty, Farm Advisor for Mendocino and Lake Counties, gave a presentation that went way over the line and made me apoplectic.   Mr. McGourty didn’t just talk about Biodynamic farming in an impartial and detached way; he clearly believes in Biodynamic farming and promoted it as the superior farming paradigm. He talked about operating in the “post petroleum world” and how to comply with the Demeter USA Farm Standard – as though he were the expert on compliance standards.  Mr. McGourty was a co-author of a 2005 paper that found not difference between Organic farming and Biodynamic farming, but he never mentioned it.  When not on stage, he sat at the front table with Elizabeth Candelario (facing the stage).   I went to Berkeley during the 1960s and saw a lot of ugly things, but in its own way this was one of the ugliest things I have ever seen my University do – it was embarrassing and flat out wrong.  If I had the power, I would have fired Mr. McGourty on the spot!  And, I suspect that Demeter would hire him in a nano second as one of their compliance inspectors or for marketing.  

After Mr. McGourty was a panel discussion on pests and diseases for the Biodynamic farmer which included Dr. Monica Cooper.  Several of the panel spoke before Dr. Cooper and talked gibberish about pest control that I could see made Dr. Cooper uncomfortable and shrink into her chair.  When the moderator turned to Dr. Cooper he said to the audience “Dr. Cooper will now talk about pest management under the (Demeter) Farm Standard.”  Not so quick, Mr. Moderator.  Dr. Cooper went on to give a nice, pleasant little talk about the ecology of invertebrates and never, not even once, did she mention or utter the word “BIODYNAMICS” or it’s Farm Standard or give even the slightest hint that she had an opinion on Biodynamics – good or bad.  Well done!   You may have been snookered into sponsoring this event, but you stood your ground with an unbiased presentation.  But she looked a little lower in her chair. 

Next were a couple other panelists, including the Preparations expert who admitted that he was a sculptor and didn’t really know anything about farming but was doing research and testing on the Preparations.  One attendee asked if you could control mildew by using only the preparations.  There was unanimous agreement by the Biodynamic panelists that no, you had to use sulfur or other fungicides.  Another attendee asked the panel if “ashing” of pests worked?    The panel hemmed and hawed and then an attendee spoke up and said he’d had pretty good results ashing yellow jackets and some other insects, but that it didn’t seem to work on larger creatures.  Dr. Cooper is a scientist and this is an area of her expertise and when I looked back at Dr. Cooper she seemed even smaller in her chair and reminded me of that movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.  As far as I can tell, Dr. Cooper left the building immediately after that session.   

After lunch Ginny Lambrix, Winemaker for Truett-Hurst, gave a nice talk on Science and Biodynamics which probably was successful for those who don’t know much about science and Biodynamics.   However, she easily slipped from saying a particular study “suggested” a Biodynamic superiority to the “evidence” showed …  To her credit, she mentioned what she called the Achilles Heel of Biodynamics, which are exotic pests.  Since there has never been any connection with these exotics in the past, the natural defense mechanism cannot be expected to be able to mount an effective defense.  This is a new and a refreshingly honest admission. 

The only thing I found interesting in the afternoon session was that Demeter now certifies wineries.  I didn’t know this.  To be a Certified Demeter winery, you can use up to 100 PPM of Sulfur, you must use native yeast, you cannot add acid, sugar or enzymes, and Reverse Osmosis and the Spinning Cone are prohibited.  The only question I asked all day was, “is it OK to add water to the must?”  First the answer was no, but then the speaker said yes, it was OK to add water.  Can’t add acid, yet it’s OK to add water – seems strange to me.

 There was a wine tasting of various Biodynamic wines at the end, which were all nice, yet confirmed to me that acidulation should be allowed.

Stuart Smith

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32 Responses to HONEY, I SHRUNK THE FARM ADVISOR!

  1. Scott says:

    I just happened on this site while researching and after reading some of the posts, in particular the opinions of the author, I’m compelled to post. First and foremost, I’m an organic grower. With that in mind, I’ve consumed many different works on agriculture, biodynamics, wholistic agriculture, etc. Within those works can be found the German agricultural scientist Maria Thun’s works. I would recommend her works and detailed research for both critics and supporters of biodynamics.

    As the author of this page seems to be unable to locate any scientific methodology for BD, Thun should provide some insight, at least on the planting time side of things. You can contact their organization directly if you need all the in depth clinical results, just in case the books don’t provide enough.

    As to your concern regarding the preps, making fun of the stirring, etc., what about Viktor Schauberger’s work on natural vortices in water and their effects on living organisms/ high electrostatic charge generation at zeropoint in the vortex, imprinting of resonant frequencies of substances into water such as that found in homeopathy? Mysticism, mumbo jumbo? Hard science, from a dedicated scientist. I challenge you to study his works. The Defense Department took him seriously, as did the Third Reich.

    Have you actually applied the BD methodology, or is this all conjecture from afar? I feel like I’m missing something here, so please enlighten me. In vegetables we notice differences in the times we plant. Using identical soil beds as a control, planting crops on so called “Leaf” days for a root crop, produces undesired results, such as strong leaf formation, and poor root formation/ susceptibility to disease and rot. That was in a turnip crop by the way.

    A different experimental variable was produced for each type of planting day as listed by Thun, such as “Fruit”, “Root”, and “Flower” days. These experiments are replicatable, and you can do them on your own if you follow a Maria Thun planting calendar. Try radishes if you like to conduct the experiment, they only take 30 days to finish. I haven’t really delved off very deeply into the cosmology of Steiner and have no desire to attest to it, but I do know that planting on certain days at certain times will affect the structure of the crop. Maria Thun wanted to test Steiner’s theories and did so scientifically, a testament to the mindset of the German people. Thun claims noticeable effects in the structure of crops, in relation to planetary positions at the time of planting. As each planetary body is giving off wavelengths of radiation or radio waves for earth its the Schumann Resonance), it stands to reason that those radiations may be affecting life on earth, as other radiations affect life on earth (like those of the sun), only in a more subtle manner. In physics we understand that in broadcasting a particular wavelength, say a long standing wave, if you also broadcast a shorter wave at the same time, the shorter wave will couple to the longer wave, modifying the transmission in that the standing wave becomes a carrier wave. So if one planet is passing in front of another planet, it affects the wavelengths being emitted by both bodies. There is a scientific explanation for what you don’t understand, call it the lack of physics understanding and a sound research background if you like. So in conclusion, Thun, Schauberger, basic physics. If you study these in unison, the synthesis should give you the understanding that you lack.

    I might even dare the author to take it a step further. If you do end up replicating any of Thun’s experiments, and you do find that there are indeed variances in the structure of the control and experimental crops, publish your findings on this site. Further, if those findings show variances in accordance with the position of planets at the time of planting, it establishes that radio or other waves of other-planetary origin are affecting plant life on this planet. And if those waves are affecting plant life, it stands to reason that the same waves are affecting all life. That would then be a scientific validation for the foundational basis of astrology. Quite a predicament. Enjoy!

    P.S. Demeter people are indeed a profit making organization that grab growers hook, line, and sinker. In addition, they are stuck in the 1920′s trying to stagnate what Steiner demanded people expand upon and verify, even in the face of new research. Demeter is short-sighted and certification is a waste of time. The greed of their organization is noticeable in the trademarking of the word “Biodynamics”. That’s a different rant for a different day. Agricultural research is alive and well, find what works for you, Keep digging, keep it sustainable, and connect with your land.

  2. Oded Shakked says:

    Good Day All,

    Just wanted to give Bill Dyer kudos for what I think are some great responses but more important: great thinking. His point about the lack of curiosity from the bd folk is right on the money. I have asked bd folk in the past if they have ever conducted a simple replicated trial where the only variable was the preparation (use a placebo, can’t be more basic than that). All I ever got in response is that I am a non-believer. They are absolutely right, I am a non believer, I am a questioner, and I believe we should all be! Isn’t it a little ironic that the same folk that are likely to have a “Question Authority” sticker on their biodiesel powered truck get upset when they are questioned?

  3. Diego says:

    In recent Wines and Vines (http://tinyurl.com/2uk53on) article regarding the event last week:

    “Candelario said, “I think history will show that one of the wine industry’s gifts to society will be the introduction of Biodynamic products to the consumer market.””

    I will cherish this gift forever. (gag)

    I wonder if Demeter will eventually cave in to the pressures of reality and common sense. This reminds me of other “faith based systems” that offer guidance for our lives. In some cases, pressure from outside groups causes change: i.e. the Vatican and condom use. Science and common sense is slowly having an effect there…and for the better.

    Demeter should drop the hocus pocus aspects of BioD, and re-release their farming system–it might gain more credibility from the scientific community. But then, how would it be different from the sustainable and/or organic programs out there?

    Ok, i’m done rambling

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,
      I saw the very well done Wines & vines article and it made me realize that I have no future as a reporter. You bring up an idea that occurred to me as I sat at the Shortcourse and I mentioned in my response to Pete. Biodynamics has survived and flourished because of Rudolf Steiner, environmentalism and some strange relationship with spirituality that I don’t really understand, yet these are the very things that I believe will hold Biodynamic farming back from becoming mainstream. To achieve success they must jettison Steiner and re-invent themselves and I don’t think they can do that. I’m beginning to see many parallels with homeopathic medicine.
      Stu

  4. biodynamicshoax says:

    Bill,
    I jiggered the system and copied your comment from the previous post to this post.
    Stu
    XXXXXXX
    Originally posted by Bill Dyer on 12/4

    I agree with Stu that Demeter ran a very well organized seminar and should be complemented for that. My reason for attending was to absorb what evidence might be presented to verify the efficacy of this method. By this standard the content was pretty thin. About the only thing I heard that approached evidence- based knowledge was the information presented that suggested compost made with the preps may have measurably higher concentrations of organisms than organically prepared compost. I don’t mind that the data for this wasn’t replicated or statistically significant–at least there were some metrics that suggest a direction for more study. If compost can be improved by using preps, why not use them? I cite this as an example of what I would have liked to have heard more of. Most of what we heard was rather vague and of the “feel good” narrative that seems to accompany BD. For me arguments in favor of the practices such as “it makes me get out in the vineyard more often”, or “it can’t hurt,” or “since I started with BD my wines are better.” are not compelling. Something that jumps out at me is that BD supporters seem to have a very low level of curiosity. When I asked the Prep panelists if any had successfully used preps to control mildew WITHOUT also spraying Serenade, Sonata, Stylet Oil, etc I was surprised that none had even tried this approach. Why not leave a couple of rows sprayed only with 508 (which Steiner implied would control “blights)?” Wouldn’t basic curiosity lead to wanting to see if it had any effectiveness?
    To say that using the Preps requires the “precision of a poem” just doesn’t tell me anything.

    What I see as the most significant problem of our times is the replacement of critical thinking with “wishful thinking” or “magical thinking.” We have “reality shows” that are scripted, wars where our leaders have a hard time defining the objectives, public figures like Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck who create their own “facts” (so as not to be too political here, I’ll say I have nostalgia for William F. Buckley, who could at least be articulate about his positions).

    It is the element of “magical thinking” and lack of reflection that seems to me to be all too common among the BD advocates. A good example is that in the afternoon panel discussion in which winemakers gave their testimonials in favor of BD practices, one panelist said something to the effect that added nutrients were detrimental to wine quality (“makes them hard),” that commonly held standards for YAN (250 ppm) were unnecessarily high, and that if one needed more nitrogen in their must they only need to pump it over, because after all the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen. As if! At this point it would have been appropriate for the UCCE representatives to object. As co-sponsors, one would think they would demand that such obvious misinformation not be allowed to stand unchallenged, as in “Yes, nitrogen fertilizers can be produced from the atmosphere, but it takes high pressure, high temperature, not to mention catalysts, and methane or hydrogen.” Sponsorship implies some level of responsibility for content

  5. Darek Trowbridge says:

    Stu

    Having managed a vineyard in Potter Valley (Mendocino)I have experience with Glenn McGourty and can say that he is considered an authority on practical viticulture by growers in Mendo where he provides advise. Certainly he knows his area well since he’s been there 30 years or so and I know of one major viticultural magazine editor that uses him for fact checking. On the subject of Biodynamics and the talk that he gave last week I think what we saw was a man who witnessed the birth of Biodynamics in California at Alan Chadwicks place (Covolo) and has seen Biodynamic farms pop up in his area ever since. What he offered was anecdotal evidence based on his own experience of observation and nothing more. I did not hear him say that he was going to scientifically prove Biodynamics in his talk at all.

    I wonder what angers you about Biodynamics? Is it because there are people who say it works for them and can’t prove it? Is it because it gets used as a marketing tool for being Holy-er than Thou by MultiMillion Dollar Estates? (that aspect also bothers me) Does it remind you of Hippies from Berkeley who don’t farm? Because there are perfectly normal people who do it and though they can’t explain how or why it works they continue based on their own empirical evidence of on-farm observation. As a farmer of 40 years you know that even with good “science” something new has to be tried and observed under your own particular farm conditions and each and every farmer has to be his own judge of what works for him on his own farm.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Darek,

      I have no reason to doubt all of the positive things you say about Glenn McGourty. However, his competency is not the issue for me, it is his judgment in sponsoring that workshop and in encouraging others to farm Biodynamically. The University of California Cooperative extension’s mandate is to bring science-based solutions to professionals in the field. Anecdotal evidence is not an acceptable standard for any UC employee to endorse a fringe farming method. If the University had “good” research which demonstrated the efficacy of Biodynamic farming then it would be appropriate for McGourty to bring that information to his growers. There must be standards that are adhered to by UC, their scientists and by those disseminating that information and in my opinion Mr. McGourty violated them.

      I believe that great harm is done to our society when our citizens can’t tell fantasy from reality. Faith-based belief systems are what we call religions. If Biodynamic supporters are willing to call it a religion then I’ll fold my tent and go on to more enjoyable endeavors. The Biodynamic crowd claims superiority, but when challenged to defend those claims in the real world, they say the skeptics (me) don’t understand the cosmic world since modern science is so primitive. I would answer yes to most of your questions. At the Shortcourse last Thursday, the afternoon farming panel was asked if any of them used only the preparations for mildew control – no one did. If Steiner was right than why do Biodynamic farmers get mildew, diseases and pests like other vineyards?
      Stu

  6. Blake Austin says:

    Stu,

    I am a supporter of Biodynamics, and I also attended the event. I think that being critical of Biodynamics is very important. Steiner encouraged experimentation from the beginning. However, I find it interesting that you paid to attend an event for a cause you clearly oppose, yet you failed to ask any challenging questions to the presenters or panelists. Instead, you crafted a rebuttal in your head based on your own admitted assumptions and ripe with a “spin” job that would make Karl Rove envious. For example, you seem to think that it is sufficient to use your personal interpretation of Dr. Cooper’s body language as evidence against the Biodynamic method. Additionally, you admit that it was your own assumption that Wilfred Wong was “comped” to attend when you had every opportunity to investigate the reality of the situation. Shamefully, you even “spin” your own words in your response to Ginny Lambrix’ defense of the credibility or her presentation, which you clearly questioned, albeit in a cowardly and condescending manner. Throughout your account, you pick away at the participants credentials and make snide comments about their coercive intentions. Worse yet, you make insulting accusations without any factual basis. If you actually attended the event, then get direct quotes and do actual research. If you have done any actual research, then you should know that of the many studies comparing Biodynamics to other forms of agriculture, researchers have found a number of statistically significant differences, yet you don’t mention this in your blog. Instead, you are completely dismissive, and you seem personally offended by anyone taking an interest in Biodynamics, a benign, if not scientifically grounded approach to farming. Perhaps you should go back to your English teacher and ask for the definition of “hypocrisy”.

    I imagine that if you had any power, the world would be a very scary place for people who value their freedom to think differently than you.

    Blake

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Blake,

      I attended the event to listen and learn. It would have been inappropriate and ill mannered of me to attend with the intent to challenge or disrupt. Demeter and UCCE have a right to hold an event and not have it disrupted. I probably would not have attended if UCCE hadn’t violated their ethics and sponsored the event. I wanted to be absolutely certain that the shortcourse was a sales and marketing event for Demeter USA to recruit converts to Biodynamic farming – by attending my belief was confirmed.

      You obviously don’t like my opinions that I wrote under the banner of “General Impressions,” and clearly that is your right.

      Supporters of Biodynamics claim superiority, I’m just asking for you and others to prove what you claim – what’s so wrong with that? I have yet to read a credible research paper from a reputable university that shows Biodynamics works. There are many reports and papers authored by Biodynamic believers, being biased, they have no meaningful value. If Demeter believes so strongly in the efficacy of Biodynamics then why haven’t they funded “independent trials” at major Universities that compare conventional, sustainable, organic and Biodynamic farming in multiple locations around our country?

      I value and will defend your right to believe in fantasies.
      Stu

  7. Bill Dyer says:

    It looks like my comments concerning the program, submitted a couple of days ago, are not going to be posted (I thought they were moderate!), but there were a couple of points I would like to resubmit as I think they are important to the discussion.

    In the morning panel about the use of the preps, I raised the question as to whether any of the panelists had used preps only (e.g. 508) to prevent mildew, rather than use them in addition to organic sprays such as Sonata, Serenade, and Stylet Oil. That none had seems curious to me, or better said, indicates a lack of curiosity, as after all wouldn’t it be easy to leave a couple of rows with just the preps to see if they really can prevent “blight” as Steiner suggested?

    In the afternoon panel discussion one of the panelists suggested addition of nutrients such as DAP to musts was detrimental to wine quality (“makes them hard)” and suggested that the standard of 250 ppm YAN for successful fermentations was unnecessarily high; then he went on to say something along the lines of that if one felt compelled to add nitrogen to must one only needed to pump the must over, because the atmosphere is composed of mostly nitrogen. Another panelist endorsed this as a possibility. It is at this point that it would have been nice for the UCCE scientists to correct this misinformation, in fact the case could be made that it would be a responsibility to do so as co-sponsors. After all, it is probably in Chem 1A where we learn the process of deriving nitrogen fertilizers from the atmosphere: it takes lot of heat, high pressure, catalysts, and methane/or hydrogen.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,
      Your comments were great, unfortunately they were submitted under the previous posts and that’s where they got posted. It’s one the problems with this format that I’m in the process of trying to resolve.
      Stu

  8. Tom Stutz says:

    Stu – Thanks for attending this program. Frankly, i can’t get enough enthusiasm for the proposition to pay to hear a program such as this. But, I do like to know what is going on in the fringes and your site has provided a much needed counterpoint these past months. I appreciate your iconoclast efforts re this icon. Tom

  9. John K says:

    The statement “native yeast” bothers me most. How do you know if what comes in on the grapes is “native.” Do the winemakers do the genetic analyses on these yeasts? Most likely, these are feral yeasts related to the wine yeasts that have been introduced into the fields or winery by spreading the pomace (EC1118?). The only really native cerevisiae I’m aware of is the RP15. Does this mean we could inoculate with commercial RP15 since it is native and still be Demeter certified?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      John K,
      The terms have been mucked-up lately, and my knowledge is more than 40 years old, so here’s my 2 cents worth. The terms “wild,” “native” and your use of the term “feral” are interchangeable and should refer to yeast that widely occur in our environment; they are not what we call wine yeasts which are from the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. ellipsoideus. Wild yeasts are like Candida Albicans, Kloechera et al, Torulopsis, S. bayanus and the Hansenula strains are example. S. Cerevisiae var. ellipsoideus ferment musts to completion, gives off few if any off odors (ethyl acetate) starts the fermentations quickly and are resistant to small amounts of sulfur dioxide. Wild yeasts can give off objectionable odors, may die off at low levels of alcohol, start slow, create stuck fermentations and should only be attempted by knowledgeable winemakers.

      Winemakers in America mostly use a singled cultured variety such as Montrachet, Champagne, Steinberg which are S. Cerevisiae var. ellipsoideus. These varieties were isolated and purified from the various winemaking regions around the world and thus are as “natural” as any other yeast that piggybacks its way into the winery on the grapes. The confusion of terms arises when someone says they use wild or natural yeast vs. cultured yeast – IMHO it’s all natural. The real difference isn’t wild vs/ cultured, it is a single strain of a cultured vs/ a mixture of various yeast strains.

      Early California research showed that non-grape growing regions were dominated with the “wild” yeasts and contained just a few of the S. Cerevisiae var. ellipsoideus wine yeasts, therefore it was important to use a cultured variety of yeast that could successfully ferment musts to completion. Over many centuries European winegrowing regions created large populations of S. Cerevisiae var ellipsoideus as wineries returned the pomace to vineyards. Also, over time certain varieties came to dominate in diverse various winegrowing regions.

      If I were growing grapes in a new area such as Oregon or Washington I would absolutely use cultured yeasts. If I bought grapes from an established vineyard in the heart of the Napa or Sonoma Valleys I think going with wild yeast is OK. There is no credible information that I’m aware of that shows wines are better one way or the other, other than to say it is much safer to inoculate with a knowm yeast strain. When we first started making Pinot noir in 1975 we used what I called a “bronco fermentation,” which was the use of wild yeasts and since we are in the West, it seemed a more interesting term than “wild.” I think Demeter should rethink their prohibition on cultured yeast, because IMO many of their members are new to grape growing and winemaking and don’t understand the pitfalls of using wild yeasts. I’m not familiar with RP15, but I would assume that Demeter is against any yeast that is commercially produced.

      Hope this helps and didn’t get too academic.
      Stu

    • John K says:

      I enjoyed the detail of your answer. However, my concern was with the use “native,” which means indiginous. It is like saying my cattle are fed on “native” grasses. Everyone knows that the vast majority of California grasslands have been taken over by invasive European varieties.

      Which is why I love your term Bronco- a wild range pony. At all levels, bronco is a perfect definition of what comes in on the grapes.

  10. Mark Beaman says:

    A couple of things seem to have been mis-interpreted in regards to the winemaking standards. Acid and water adds are allowed for the “made with BD grapes” label category. Up to 1.5% potential alcohol (2.5 brix) to the must for water adds and 1.5g/L for tartaric acid adds to the must. For the “Biodynamic Wine” label category which many folks are making water or acid adds are not allowed. The “Made with BD garpes” category of labeling is there for when harvest conditions are not spot on. As for Ivo’s comment on “better” vs. “different” I think more than a few of the panel agreed with him.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Mark,
      Thanks for the clarification. I’ve never seen these rules delineated anywhere, did I just miss them in the “Farm standard? I remember Tom saying “I’m not here to bash Organic farming” but I don’t remember a chorus of agreement after Ivo’s statement. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.
      Thanks again,
      Stu

  11. Dave Keegan says:

    The more I read about Biodynamics the more it seems like the Scientology of the wine world.

  12. Richard Arrowood says:

    Stu, your account of the proceedings was very well structured and to the point. I,like you, am a bit taken aback by the way the “Biodynamic crowd” seems to be willing to accept some rather unscientific premises without much,if any,question. Furthermore, it is almost laughable that the quote “you have to believe in order for it to work” keeps coming up ! (Don’t know about the rest of my classmates in college, but I don’t ever recall that this was a requisit in understanding chemistry, physics or math !) Stu, keep up the good fight , many of us are behind you. Organic,by all means…YES . Biodynamic methodologies…NOT SO MUCH !!!! Cheers, Richard

  13. tahmiene momtazi says:

    Hello, I think you might of missed heard what I was saying. You are not allowed to add water to the must or the juice. That is why I said, “jesus is not allowed to come in the cellar.” I hope that clears that up.

    Cheers,
    TM

  14. Thank you for attending the Biodynamic Shortcourse. I would respectfully disagree with your comment that my studies/talk were not scientific. I started my career as a scientist. A list of most of my peer reviewed publications in high profile Journals like Plant Cell and Plant Physiology can be found on the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology’s Publication list- look in 2001 and beyond- http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/publ_ice.html. I hold 2 patents on the genes that make your mustard spicy. I have been asked if I would return to the Max Planck Institute on more than one occasion on the basis of my productivity. Fortunately, I love wine more.

    The research that I presented on Botrytis has been funded by a National, and again peer reviewed grant. I took great pains to only site well conducted studies that had been published in peer reviewed journals with the 2 exceptions- the one that I worked on that is still under investigation (but worthy of funding according to the scientific community) and a second that I pointed out was less rigorous than I would hope for, but none the less worth at least looking at. If I am not qualified to review scientific studies- who is? Furthermore, I spared the audience from the long list of also peer reviewed, well conducted research articles that document the devastating effects of Industrial Agriculture on our water supply, the health of farm workers and their children who are exposed to pesticide residues, and the overall ill effects this method of farming has had on the health of Americans. I would suggest that perhaps these would be worthy of your scientific scrutiny?

    All the best
    Virginia Lambrix

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Virginia,
      Your claim that I said your comments were not scientific is completely false. An English professor of mine reminded us students that if we wanted to know what the sentence or statement really said, then to take the time and “read the words.” I suggest you take a breath and re-read my post about your presentation. I was complimenting you and stated that it was “a nice talk of Science and Biodynamics which probably was successful for those who don’t know much about science and Biodynamics.” You gave a variety of evidence that you thought supported your belief in Biodynamics and kept your presentation simple and uncomplicated befitting an audience that likely wasn’t very science oriented. I recognized that you were hitting the high notes and that this was not the place for an in-depth scientific presentation. What more praise do you want?

      Correspondingly, giving your time limitations and your targeted audience, you didn’t really expect your presentation sufficient to convince a skeptic with a science background – did you? We all get anxious giving a talk before an audience, and this may not have been what you meant to say, but I noted at least twice that your language slipped from “the study suggested” to “the evidence showed” and to me those are two very different standards of evidence.

      Further, when referencing the 2005 ASEV Journal article “Soil and Winegrape Quality in Biodynamically and Organically Managed Vineyards” you stated “the evidence showed” a preference for Biodynamic farming. How do you reconcile your statement with the paper’s “Results and Discussion” section:
      “No consistent significant differences were found between the biodynamically treated and untreated plots for any of the physical, chemical, or biological parameters tested. … Our results are consistent with the literature in that responses to the use of the biodynamic preparations have been seen in some situations but not others.”

      Your curriculum vitae is very impressive, you should be proud. Again, let me thank you for your comments about exotics and that relationship to the Biodynamic farming. BTW, is that an official position held by Demeter USA or is that just your personal point of view?
      Stu

  15. jim lapsley says:

    Stuart,

    Thanks for the quite objective recounting of the program.

    During my 32 years directing the Ag. program at UC Davis University Extension (not Cooperative Extension–University Extension is self-supporting and runs continuing education programs) I worked closely with the Viticulture Farm Advisors and found them to be, uniformly, dedicated scientists. I am frankly surprised that UCCE got involved with this program, and, if they did get involved, didn’t raise some quite obvious questions about science when they got to the podium.

    With respect to the Department of Viticulture and Enology’s relationship with Farm Advisors, I think it is important to point out that the Department has no direct line authority over Farm Advisors (they are not department members) and that these individuals are academic employees with academic freedom. Their choice of outreach venues could certainly be questioned during the review process (generally every 2-3 years), but no one has the authority to tell them what to do. That is what Academic Freedom is all about.

    Jim Lapsley

  16. bill says:

    It was good to see you there in support of the Dinosaurs! I thought your face was going to burst a few times but damn if you didn’t keep it together. It was like watching the lone picketer in front of the MGM grand hotel as thousands of people walk by and think “wow what a fool, doesn’t he have something better to do?”

  17. Diego says:

    Stu
    Thanks for attending the event and giving your report. I wonder how Dr. Cooper’s presentation would have been different without the pressure you placed.

    This is a very necessary conversation and I am glad you are forcing the topic. I saw on the Unified Schedule that there is a Biodynamic session. Are you speaking?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,
      I didn’t know about the Biodynamic session being held at Unified, so I’m not speaking. Sounds like another one-sided presentation.

      It’s a good question about Dr. Cooper and the entire shortcourse event, for which I have no answer.
      Thanks for following the conversation.
      Stu

    • Diego says:

      Copied directly from the Unified Symposium website: The session that i was referring to:

      TITLE: Biodynamics: Point/Counterpoint

      This session will strive for a balanced conversation that provides different perspectives with respect to the effects attributed to biodynamics.

      Moderator:
      Steve McIntyre, Monterey Pacific Inc., California

      Speakers:
      Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich Hills Estate, California

      Additional speakers to be confirmed.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,

      Thanks again for this information. I will look into it. Ivo Jeramaz was on the afternoon panel and he was very impresssive. What particularly impressed me was that he was very direct in stating that Biodynamic farming and wines were NOT better, they were just different. I don’t remember any other panalists supporting that statement.
      Thanks again,
      Stu

  18. Eric M says:

    Enjoyed the post!

    Has anybody (academic) done experiments with Biodynamics vs Organic (or other vineyard practices)from bin to bottle?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Eric,

      Scroll down the home page until you get to my July 18 post titled Organic vs Biodynamic. It should be helpful and it’s the only one I know of.
      Stu

    • Isotope says:

      Eric M,

      Stu is correct about the one research paper. Academic funding for a large scale scientific project requires a grant proposal, which are funded at a rate about 10%. It is rather hard with the number of worthy projects, to think that a board of peer-reviewers would allocate funding to something that most dedicated scientists and rationalists find laughable. Linda Bisson for example, has done a bunch of interesting work with yeast strains that minimize H2S production, which is solid and necessary science. I guarantee that her work would be funded well before a grant with a hypothesis that reads: “The effects of a biodynamicized poop filled cow-horn applied at a 1:1000000 dilution in comparison to an organic plot over 2 years”. Note, that dilution could be much greater based on the size of the vineyard.

      Biodynamics is simply a safety net for people who don’t want to understand a fermentation and give themselves solace for making a flawed product. Any winemaker who repeats the non-interventionist mantra is simply protecting a fragile ego and likely not much background in fermentation science. You need to add nutrients, grape must isn’t exactly perfect for a flawless fermentation. You may need to add acid or water depending on harvest conditions, mother nature isn’t always preferential to grapes, sometimes she is preferential to oranges. That said, most of the non-interventionists are only that way because they don’t remember what they added intentionally. I’ve first-hand seen mouth pipetting copper sulfate into barrels by a non-interventionist. Obviously my understanding of non- must be in error.

      Stu, thanks for keeping up the fight. Keep the UCCE on their toes and nolite te bastardes carborundorum!

  19. Tim M says:

    Thanks for this account. Enjoyed it.

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