What possible harm could there be with letting Biodynamic farmers go along their merry way with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground? Shouldn’t we be tolerant of differing viewpoints, isn’t that what our grammar school teachers taught us? Many on this and other blogs have stated that Biodynamics is a little kooky, but so what as long as the wine is good. Another frequent comment is that while Steiner is nutty and Biodynamics is way out there, it seems that they’re paying more attention to farming details and that’s always good. And science and truth are just arbitrary concepts anyway, let’s just wait and see what happens and besides, we all know science is always playing catch up; what was once ridiculed is now viewed as the truth.
I answer, not in my own words, but from an article from “The Skeptical Inquirer” (Nov/Dec 2007) by Douglass Smith and Jesus Barquin. I believe they are more eloquent and persuasive than I could be:
“To return to the question posed earlier-what harm does it do if a farmer or winemaker follows such practices? The easy answer is that it is a waste of time, money, and effort. Indeed, one reason that biodynamics has caught on in the wine industry, and practically nowhere else, is that wine is perhaps the agricultural product with the largest sales markup. Most agricultural products are commodities that roughly sell at their price of production. However, if a winemaker can convince the public that the wine he or she makes is some of the best stuff out there, he or she can charge upwards of $50 or $100 for a bottle of what is, in essence, fermented grape juice. Such a markup can pay for the onerous biodynamic overhead of labor, assuming that the marketing is done properly. But, still and all, it appears to be wasted effort, and those who persist in it appear more and more as New Age acolytes.”
“That said, our critical attitude toward the esoteric aspects of biodynamics does not interfere with our appreciation of many of its wines. Many biodynamic winemakers are indeed talented. The problem resides in the extension of disbelief in empirical technique, and in substituting for it beliefs in unscientific practices like astrology and homeopathy, as well as voodoo-style rituals and even “geo-acupuncture.” We must confront this problem, not just as wine lovers and wine writers, but also as citizens who do not wish to live in, nor present to our children, a society in which pseudoscience and esoteric fantasies are considered reality. Irrational thinking, or reliance on mystical gurus with claims of clairvoyant intuition, does great harm to society. The best research studies to date have not found any distinction between biodynamics and the organic agriculture of which it is a part. The esoterica, it seems, add nothing. And we, as supporters of clarity and rationalism, are dismayed by the disconnect between belief and research. Our hope is that one day, under the clear light of understanding, better-grounded winemakers will dispense with biodynamics for good. Let us raise a glass to reason, and to that day.”