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.”

Stuart Smith



  1. down under says:

    I have been following the ebb and flow of this discussion for some time with great interest. My son and I are grape growers / winemakers in Australia. We do not practise “BD” as prescribed but take a very hands on approach in our vineyard and strive to produce the best possible fruit that we can. No chemical fertilizers, no insecticides, maximum mulching, minimal water inputs, permanent mid-row swards etc. We have tried to encourage bio diversity with massive tree and native shrub plantings etc. We walk the vineyard every day to see what is happening. We enjoy a very healthy population of native animals (and the not so native with the regular fox or rabbit appearing – rabbit pot pie is a favourite of ours),echidnas, kangaroos, predatory native birds etc etc. At times it is more like a wild life menagerie than a vineyard but we all seem to cope. The fruit is consistently good despite the extremes we can experience and we are making, what critics and consumers alike think, are tasty, interesting wines.
    I have digressed though from my point:
    One of the smartest farmers I have ever read about or listened to is Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in the US. He is in his own words a “grass farmer” who practises sensible, sustainable farming utilizing extensive crop and livestock rotation. He has I understand, the highest relative productivity of any farm in the US. No voodoo, no spiritualism, no magic, no use of artificial fertilizers, just hard work and good sense. He appears to be a farmer sensitive and committed to the environment who adopts sustainable practices after he and his father carefully thought about what was wrong with their land and set about revitalizing and re-invigorating it.
    Does he use BD principles?
    If so, I am not aware of it.
    Could others enlighten me please?
    Perhaps this is where we all should be..not snowed under with some of the gobbledy-gook that seems to follow devotees of BD – rather just get out, look at your farm, take care with what you put into it and be as natural as you can.
    The BD movement seems to have been hi-jacked largely by the wine industry in the current debate….marketing to the fore….I think so!
    I have been in several extensive blind tastings with BD and non BD wines – and not one taster could identify which was which.
    Cheers from Down Under.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Hello down under,
      Welcome and good day. As best I can tell, everything you and your son practice are good, solid enlightened methods that Biodynamics hijacked from conventional farming, whether it is main stream or not. While I support your use of compost, I think I’ll still get my nitrogen “out of a bag.” However, when you get right down to it, all Biodynamics has that is unique to farming are the nine preparations. I find it fascinating that those nine preparations never existed in history before Steiner (the non-farmer) invented them.

      It’s my opinion that some time in the future the farming community will sort though the various farming methods and jettison the false and keep the proven. I view conventional farming on one side with Biodynamics anchoring the far other side with sustainable and organic somewhere in the middle. Because of the long term flexibility and inclusion of Best management Practices (BMP) my bet is on sustainable, but it could be a hybrid of the best practices of the three.

      The reason Biodynamics has been hijacked by the wine industry is because there is more value added potential to a bottle of wine than to a Biodynamically farmed carrot. It’s a little harsh on my part, but I’ve always said that the Biodynamics community consists of the true believers, the gullible and the savvy marketers. Who’s who is anyone’s guess.

  2. Nga Waka says:

    Thanks for taking on the religious converts/zealots of biodynamics. As to the harm being done, here’s a local example. We have an excellent industry-wide vineyard/winery sustainability scheme here in New Zealand. The scheme is scorecard based with regular workshops to share knowledge and seek further improvements in best practice. The aim is for all vineyards and wineries to be accredited by 2012.

    Unfortunately Demeter registration is recognized as an alternative form of compliance so we have the crazy situation of our national industry organisation offering credibility to unsubstantiated, mystical nonsense and setting it alongside a proper science-based sustainability scheme. Talk about the emperor’s new clothes.

    Keep up the great work and thanks again.

    Roger Parkinson
    Nga Waka
    New Zealand

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      Thanks for the comment, silliness seems to heed no boundaries. While California gov’t is the laughing stock of America, we are very lucky to have an excellent Department of Ag, both on the state and the local level – folks that are very that are very grounded in reality!

  3. Rich says:

    I believe this article today in the NYT highlights just these concerns…


    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Thank you for the link. The Op-ed piece by Bob Herbert is right on point.

  4. tom merle says:


    I know nothing of Steiner’s racial views, but it is easy to throw around the term “racism” as a shorthand way to dismiss views on biodiversity. This is not the forum to discuss the topic of race, and I don’t think bringing it in illuminates Mr. Smith’s central thesis, but surely as a man of science you know there are serious studies that posit racial differences, whether such studies are taboo or not.

    • Nick Nakorn says:


      The histories of slavery, banking, consumerism and the global economy’s reliance on oil are all intimately tied to the growth of the British and American empires over several centuries in which racism and mysticism, often disguised as science in the form of Social Darwinism, have been underwritten by the colonial forces in defence of their actions at home and abroad. It is a great irony that many of those who would prefer to see a gentle, rather than violent, decline from peak oil are buying into the value systems of the socio-political classes they seek to oppose. Racism has been an horrific ingredient of European and American history and continues to have huge negative impacts on the lives of millions all over the world to this day. I make no apology for including my objection to racism in these discussions. If you have not read the materials referred to throughout by Stu on this blog, and by other contributors, then I think you should; no opinion about Steiner is really informed without having read either Steiner’s original work or critiques by scholars such as Peter Staudenmaier.

      I don’t know how you have come to the conclusion that I am somehow attempting to undermine, or set myself against, the prevention of the decline in biodiversity by talking about the bogus and racist aspects of Biodynamics.

      The studies positing racial difference; well the results of the human genome project would suggest that race is as much culturally defined as anything else and the differences between races are less than the differences within races. But you don’t approve of such discussions here so why bring it up?


  5. tom merle says:

    From facebook, which deserves to be shared with this group:

    You fault Stu for misusing his time. He should be taking on fire breathing dragons like Monsanto and Bayer which are laying waste the earth. Smith responds he has chosen his battle; you should choose yours. You mention your blog. But with the passion you bring to the defilement of the land by Big Ag shouldn’t you abandon the frivolity of interviewing winemakers and commenting on wines and grape growing regions and ride off, the man of Santa Cruz, to slay these evil corps?

    If Stu, according to your lights, is to be faulted for engaging a topic of lesser importance to the well being of the landscape, aren’t you subject to the same challenge but more so. It’s not that your interviews of vintners are frivolous on their face. They are quite substantial and informative. But given your apocalyptic view of Monsanto and the other corporate Bad Guys, shouldn’t you be using your limited time to take them on.

    Stu doesn’t happen to share your perspective and still you urge him to modify his blog. Surely someone who is as outraged as you are should devote his own blog to help defeat this perceived plague.

    Your friend,


  6. nicknakorn says:


    you say,

    “Try as you might to be the voice of reason, we both know you simply haven’t the necessary intellectual range to respond in kind. But rather than admit any short-comings you relapse into simple-minded sloganeering. This is precisely the reason I cannot share in your world-view. It is lazy, unapologetic, and, finally, uncultured.”

    I don’t think it helpful to make this discussion a personal attack on the intellectual capacities of the contributors.

    Your ‘central argument’: Science as an ongoing cultural activity haunted by sacrifice; yes, I’d agree with that in part, it’s sounds like a poetic version of what used to be called the technological imperative within the military industrial complex. But it doesn’t make practical scientific models any less true or useful. I say, oppose mysticism and racism, don’t support it. Supporting Biodynamics helps to prolong the agony. We have to acknowledge fully the culpability of scientists when involved in horrors and guard against it – if only Anthroposophists would do the same. We’ve been through this already.

    Racism as a moribund concept: I wish that were true. The Hitchens article I posted here earlier contains exactly the same points you have mentioned. But Hitchen’s observation is his explanation, in reference to Freud, of why similar peoples might war, he does not say that racism no longer exists and nor do I. Indeed, where I live, it is on the rise. I think you understand completely my ‘Freud is a fraud’ remark; it was an aside to illustrate my point about gathering evidence and the feminist perspective.

    Which presumptions about well-fed Western rationalists are you referring to?

    You’re trying to illicit a response from me about Hispanic farmers? Is that a reference to current Spanish politics, Latin American issues or Spanish speaking peoples in the United States? I still have no idea what you’re talking about or how the farmers you have in mind might have a particularly violent interpretation of Biodynamics compared to any other persons.

    South Africa: the current violence you mention is not enshrined as policy within the S. Afican constitution or legislature and no boycott has been called for, I’ll take my lead from my S. African friends on that one.


    • Ken Payton says:

      Nick, I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed our exchange. I would not write were it otherwise. But our tenuous rapport suffers from one quite significant weakness: we are completely unaware of the other’s life experience. With every reply, we let slip in a fragment or two of extra-textual background, an hors d’oeuvre, as a punster might put it, but hardly enough to get a sense of the fundamental decency or villainy of the character behind the keyboard. So, we are essentially imaginary projections, each of the other, though, it may be assumed, desirous to present our better selves. But surely to meet in person would substantially alter the texture of our debate. One of us could be in a wheelchair, be undergoing transgendering therapy, weigh 400 pounds, or suffer from an allergy to light. One of us could have a police record, be an alcoholic, unlucky in love, a Russian spy, or a bulimic. Maybe we kick our dog or are having an affair with the neighbor’s wife (or husband).

      The point is that 1) cyber-space, the technology itself, eliminates our bodies, histories, and current predicament from informing our exchange. We, therefore, enter into a pact that the other’s self-representations are accurate and true. This is an abstract act of faith. 2) We are so wired that were our bodies, history, and current predicament to enter into a real-life, face to face exchange, it would necessarily modify our understanding of each other.

      Further, the temptation is to perfect and polish arguments on-line we could not realistically sustain in real-life conversations. Our cyber personalities are, therefore, often imbued with narcissistic fantasies we could not hope to get away with in real life; that of The Scientist, The Philosopher, The Rationalist, The Playboy. Now, where you and I most fundamentally differ is that, coming from a background of philosophy, literature, anthropology, and science, I can easily wander cross academic boundaries. Anti-authoritarian by nature, mine is the good-natured attempt to scramble the codes of any concept’s alleged purity, and all for the sake of thought. Rationality is one of my favorites.

      So, have you actually met a BioD farmer? And if yes, did you launch into the same style of rhetorical assault on display here? If no, then I encourage you to meet a few, for you will then learn that they are very nice people, not as a group, but as individuals. There were no swastikas on the living-room walls of those I’ve met. Some even engage in miscegenation. Some are Catholic, others are atheists. Some are deeply conservative, Palin republicans, while others are quite ethereal. There does not appear to be a unifying ideology of any kind, apart from a dedication to produce the best crop they are able. They are, in short, ordinary people, except with respect to their work ethic, which we, as feeble traffickers in mere words and signs, can only marvel at.

      Lastly, about that fraud Freud. Surely you know that the proper name functions as a metonymic contraction, as the name of a set, or network, of problems and issues. When some hear the name it triggers a Pavlovian response: Freud is great; Freud’s a fraud. In others, Helen Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Derrida, Lacan, even Norman O’Brown, for example, it inspires the writing of important books. But whether great or a fraud, simple reduction does violence to thought. Understandable, considering the ‘human condition’ and its irrepressible will to power. In the words of the brilliant Ani DiFranco, “Everyone is a fucking Napoleon”. Cheers!

    • Nick Nakorn says:


      I’m afraid I have not much enjoyed our exchange. I write about these issues because I think they are important in the promotion of pragmatically viable and socially enfranchising alternatives to consumerism, peak oil and climate change.

      Yes, I’ve met Biodynamic farmers – the first in 1977, when I was involved in a wildlife campaign, and many others since. But I’ve only recently found out about the Anthroposophical connection.

      It is true that those of us who contribute to blogs often know little about the people with whom they converse; all the more reason to look at the evidence and arguments put forward by the contributors. Clearly none of my arguments have changed your opinion and you have not been shifted by any of the evidence proffered by the many individuals and organisations devoted to these issues on sites and blogs such as this.

      As for all your other points concerning literature, writing, intellectualism and the work ethic, I really am not going down that road any further as you already think me inferior in that regard; fine, think it. Your view of my capabilities, scant though they might be, does not change the science for or against Steiner’s goblins or his belief that people like me need to be spiritually improved to allow us to be reincarnated as white people.


    • Ken Payton says:

      Oh, for Hitchen’s sake, get a grip, Nick. You sound like a child taking his football home when disappointed by the score. I don’t think you are intellectually inferior. Rather, I believe you to be the finest flower of the scientistic ideology. It is your teachers that have let you down. It has nothing to do with you. So, buck up! You have plenty of fight left in you!

      The one piece of advice I would offer you is to read more carefully.

      Best wishes.

  7. art predator says:

    I’m with Ken.

    If I was a winemaker would I seek biodynamic certification? No. Would I follow biodynamic principles? Yes–because they have been proven to work when other ways don’t.

    Am I convinced that “science” knows everything we need to know? Not at all.

    Am I convinced that Big Ag is destroying our planet? Yes.

    When I buy wine do I choose one that is made as sustainably as possible? Yes. And it is likely this last question and answer which will have the biggest impact on this debate.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Art Predator,
      Welcome and happy 4th of July.

      May I ask how you know that Biodynamics works and that Sustainability or Organic doesn’t work? While I’m not a stooge for Big Ag, I’d like to know how they are destroying our planet. Please remember there are 6 billion people on this planet, and if it wasn’t for advances in modern agriculture I firmly believe that many more people than are already starving would perish.

      I hope that what is true, valid, correct, moral etc. is what impacts this debate and not what the economic impacts might be. I have nothing to gain monetarily by starting this debate; in fact, I have more to lose than to gain. I have a conscious; I’m doing this blog because I believe it is my civil duty, my mitzvah, my good turn as a citizen of this glorious country.

  8. nicknakorn says:

    Dear All,

    As Christpher Hitchens has been often mentioned as salient to matters here, I thought his comments concerning the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz conflict most apt:

    “Since we left Africa, we have diverged as a species hardly at all. If we were dogs, we would all be the same breed. We do not suffer from the enormous differences that separate other primates, let alone other mammals. As if to spite this huge natural gift, and to disfigure what could be our overwhelming solidarity, we manage to find excuses for chauvinism and racism on the most minor of occasions and then to make the most of them. This is why condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival.”

    full text: http://www.slate.com/id/2258127/

    I could not agree more.


  9. nicknakorn says:

    Science and Technology

    In the light of Ken’s comments I thought it worthwhile to make clear the differences between science and technology to get around the fiction that science, big business and big government are somehow synonymous. I quote from a piece on my blog.

    “The green movement is rightly suspicious of technology. In fact, everyone with a sense of fairness should be suspicious of technology. Technology, being the application of knowledge defined by social norms, is, unlike science, primarily a social product. And while the relationship between scientific endeavour and technology is symbiotic in that, in the modern world, one can not advance without the other, it is important to remember that scientific theory is as accurate when put to good use as it is when used destructively. Science tells us, with the best possible accuracy, what is true, not how we would like things to be. It can tell us what to expect but it can not make decisions. Technology, on the other hand, uses artefacts to which purpose is ascribed, intended or represented by the makers and users – by which I mean people. Technology is part of, and the result of, the decision-making process. The way in which technology is controlled, and by whom, is thus of immense political importance.

    Technology is sometimes used as a short-hand to describe how other animals, such as birds, use artefacts with what looks like purpose. And as neuroscience improves there is some evidence that many animals might have rudimentary levels of sentience and self-awareness and some might even be fully sentient. It might be that some birds building nests are in fact involved in technology rather than hard-wired genetically-driven behaviour. Dolphins, whales, elephants and primates such as apes are also thought to be fully aware of themselves and their surroundings, and human affections for pets often endow animals with notions of sentience whether they have it or not. But, for now, we can pretty much define technology as a human activity; on a vertical scale of technology, humans are at the high end and most animals are perhaps creeping onto the ground at the foot of the technological ladder.

    Social norms, themselves mutable and subject to the changes in the power-relations of societies that form them, drive, and are driven by, technology; yet science, also driven by political forces, does not reciprocate in quite the same way. If a politician wants to change the laws of nature, he (politicians are still mostly, and tragically, male) will be sorely disappointed. Technology, on the other hand, beholden to science in its physical manifestation, is nevertheless utterly mutable to social and political purpose.

    The holocaust and the atom bomb are both examples of technologies put to horrible purpose. Some Green campaigners, correctly distrustful of technology because it represents the physical manifestations of ill-directed political and social purpose have, however, gradually become equally distrustful of science; given the overlaps and the symbiotic relationships I have described, it is perhaps not surprising – particularly as science teaching in schools and universities has become subsumed by consumerism. But while it is easy to see that thermodynamics did not produce the desire for some humans to put other humans into gas chambers and crematoria, it is not so easy for the scientifically uninformed to see how atomic theory was not responsible for Hiroshima and the arms race.

    But neither atomic theory nor thermodynamics, or any other scientific law for that matter, were responsible for any human events. The laws themselves, though modelled, created and employed by humans hold true independently and are not endowed with purpose, intent or responsibility. The sun burns now much as it did before the earth supported life; gravity retained its relationship with mass and the square of inverse distance long before humans discovered and developed mathematics. Einstein made a political and social decision to support the creation of the atomic bomb. It was a technological act, not a scientific one. Hitler and the Nazis made a political and social decision to commit genocide. Scientists can be blamed for collaborating with, or helping to create, destructive technologies but science itself is merely the sum of the human knowledge-bank concerning models of reality that are good enough to be deemed laws of nature (i.e. true) by virtue of their reliability.

    The distinctions I have made between science and technology are to do with categorising concepts in ways that promote rational debate. By making clear the differences between scientific laws and human decisions one can rationally separate ethics from points of fact. Making good ethical decisions is partly about wisdom, mostly about science and rarely about technology. But the rise of irrational, New-Age mysticism within the green movement has resulted in some terrible and dangerous sets of ethics being promoted; decisions that are mostly about irrational wisdom, highly dependent upon technology and dismissive of science and rationality.

    Technology, remember, is not science. Technology is what existed before science and has since been exponentially developed in a symbiotic relationship with scientific advance. New-age thinkers often claim to understand some of the relationships I have outlined; they might agree that technology has been damaging and that it should be mistrusted, they might agree that ethics have been too much influenced by technological necessity. Yet, in practice, very large numbers of green New-age thinkers are busily promoting the very technologies that are least able to be tested by rational and scientific debate; technologies that were developed in the absence of science or, even worse, in the absence of ethics and the presence of science purposefully ignored. New-age technologies, like all technologies, are not neutral; they are guided by power-structures and have massive political ramifications. Now that green campaigners and politicians are helping to shape the political and practical responses to climate change, peak oil and the decline in biodiversity, we face a potentially catastrophic return to mystic technologies unless we are very careful. And one of the most disgusting aspects of such technologies is that they are steeped in racism.”

    I hope that adds to the debate here, there’s more on the same subject over on my blog.

    Best wishes,


    • Ken Payton says:

      Ok, let’s see if I can help untangle Nick’s canned rationalist apologia.

      Just as every religious personality will tell you that there is the perfection of God on the one hand and man’s imperfection on the other, so will the rationalist tell you that there is the perfection of science versus its fallen secondarity, its imperfect performance, here called technology. Both religion and science share this same explanatory duality: perfection versus ‘we’ll get it right next time’.

      Let’s take genetics and cancer research. Yes, there is the slow purification of the knowledge of how DNA works and how it fails, but it came at the expense of a series of technological performances: South African studies of hermaphroditic slaves, Nazi experimentation on concentration camp inmates, Atomic Radiation studies in the aftermath of Hiroshima, secret research into lung cancer funded by the tobacco companies. Of course there are less malignant sources of primary research, but in each of the examples I cite the information gained experimentally was eagerly sought by scientists. Because the research subjects had already suffered, the damage was already done, it was felt to be perfectly ethical to marshall the results for future research. My first principle of Science: it is a palace is built upon a foundation of death.

      And this is how science advances. Responding to an exigency or task, technology performs a fragment of the naive scientific understanding of an era. A caveman bashes in the skull of an adversary= technology. The understanding of the force, angle, and velocity required to bash in a skull= Science. Armed with a new, rudimentary crypto-scientific understanding of how to kill, the path is now open for the caveman to refine skull bashing, to make it more efficient, to better conform to natural laws.

      And my linking of science to warfare is entirely intentional. Enormous amounts of scientific information about the natural world has been learned through this persistent human activity, the big business of efficiently destroying buildings, bodies, and environments. But also the big business of putting them back together. After all, Lucretius in his de rerum natura says he got the first intimation of his theory of atoms when watching the sunlit dust kicked up by Roman legions passing through yet another destroyed village.

      But what is especially narrow-minded about Nick’s apologia is that he seems to believe his own meditations are free from worldly contamination. It is the ‘greens’, the ‘environmentalists’, the ‘new-agers’ who, though rightly suspicious, simply can’t get it through their thick Luddite skulls that, after all the environmental, cultural, and social disasters throughout history, there is really nothing to fear from science. If only the [insert your insult of choice] were, umm, more rational!

      But notice the sleight of hand Nick performs. Inasmuch as science is nothing but the sum total of the truths about the natural world, if you are suspicious of science, you might as well be suspicious of the moon science describes. Science is that special place where all of our worldly fears are pacified. Sounds like Heaven. Fact is science and technology are joined at the hip. A kind of good cop, bad cop routine. Technology does science’s dirty work.

      And just as the molesting priest believes his pact with God remains unperturbed despite his vile acts, so the rationalist never has to apologize for violence done in the name of science. The belief in God and Science, as objects of pure contemplation, are never responsible for anything. That is because they are both empty of content when divorced from their performance. The priest and the rationalist both work to preserve the purity of their gods.

      Christopher Hitchens could not quit smoking despite what the science told him. Sadly, he has recently been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. But he knows something about life that the cold rationalist will never glimpse: A life without passion and vice is not a life worth living. So in the interests of peace, let us agree that just as The Hitch smokes, so does the biodynamist bury his horn.

    • nicknakorn says:


      a beautifully written and very seductive response. I entirely agree that all people, including scientists, are prone to nicotine addiction; indeed I am one of them. I also agree that undertaking cruel, disgraceful and vile acts is part of the tragedy of the human condition to which scientists have contributed as readily as others. However, while burying a cow’s horn might be as stupid as smoking (indeed, a lot less stupid than smoking in its global implications), it is not the odd quirks and harmless rituals of Biodynamics that are the problem; it is the institutional racism, wedded to fascism within living memory, that makes Biodynamics such a ghastly proposition.

      If one wants to prevent atrocity one has to campaign for systems of thought and action that undermine those forces able to mobilise populations to commit such crimes. It is a mystery to me that one might knowingly lend credence to Biodynamics, which espouses racism and fascism, in favour of very similar technologies that do not display those traits. I am suggesting that we can be constantly critical of racist, fascistic and violent technologies because our sentience provides us with such a choice.

      Assuming that science and technology are joined at the hip, rather than in a symbiotic relationship open to ethical and rational discourse, gives the impression that all scientific laws are not able to be trusted because of their technological association; such pronouncements, in my view, embolden the pseudoscience so loved by New Age proponents and prevent the Green movement from promoting many worthwhile technologies within mainstream society and disenfranchise those who might otherwise wish to contribute ideas and labour.

      The modelling of nature by science has now provided us with clear information regarding the reality of suffering and how to prevent it and has at long last, under constant pressure from the civil rights movement, overturned the idea that skin colour is an indication of a person’s worth. Yes, it has enabled the best and the worst of the technologies we have at our disposal, but it is up to all of us to keep technology on the right track through ethical and political action. By contrast, mystical cults use science when it suits them to undertake vile actions to which they have already co-opted their members. It is not as if pre-scientific history was free of genocide and suffering and, while violent regimes have always co-opted scientists, the concepts of genocide, racial superiority, exploitation and cruelty are not now written into the models that science provides. A decision not to strongly oppose Biodynamics is precisely the type of technological decision you have criticised in your piece above.


    • Ken Payton says:

      This response properly belongs at the end of this immediate thread.

      A couple of things. Nick, your argument has changed somewhat. Scientific laws are formalized, regional observations of the natural world, though still subject to amendment and modification. The fundamental disagreement between, say the Biology and Physics concerning the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics authorizes the latter to dream of time travel. Time’s arrow, entropy, we are told by Hawking for example, may ultimately be irrelevant. Schrödinger’s What is Life? is a foundational historical text in this regard. But it is the physicist who will often hint at catching glimpses of the face of God. What are we to make of this? Of course it is to some degree a rhetorical strategy, a ‘seduction’ designed to invite the public into a community of reflection. Like some variation of Hegelian negation, it is felt that a new conceptual clarity will emerge once the public has passed through the rigors of a proper reading. Maybe.

      This is precisely the ‘seduction’ about which you mark my last response, but with ambivalence, as potentially an attempt to misdirect. However, seduction is, I would argue, a necessary discursive feature of (but not limited to) all successful popular science writing. (I know university scientists who regularly ‘juice up’ their research proposals when scrambling after scare research dollars.)

      Now, the phrase ‘the tragedy of the human condition’ has always struck me as banal as it is deeply profound. Tragedy is perhaps our most archaic literary form. Seduction is at its core. Without taking us too far afield, let me just add that tragedy’s origins are in ritualistic sacrifice, which is to say that the ‘human condition’ has something to do with collectivized, ritualistic violence performed for the sake of the continuity of a culture. So, I would argue that, far from being antithetical to archaic forms of thought, science is itself an on-going cultural activity still haunted by the shadow of archaic sacrifice. This is what I meant by ‘the palace of science is built upon a foundation of death’. Sacrifice is at the heart of scientific inquiry. Whether it be neuro-science’s experimentation on chimp brains or school children dissecting frogs, from medical research on effective torture techniques, to the science of animal husbandry so as to more efficiently put slabs of dead animals on our dinner plates, from ornithologists, entomologists and marine scientists harvesting specimens, to developments in robotics and artificial limbs driven by war and its wounded, science demands sacrifice.

      Now, despite your observation that “it is not the odd quirks and harmless rituals of Biodynamics that are the problem”, such an observation is at odds with the original theme of Stu’s blog, though he, too, is learning and adapting his message. Your larger point concerns the racism and fascism you believe central to the Biodynamic mission. Just as driving a Ford truck does not make you complicit in the company founder’s pro-Nazi sympathies or that smoking cigarettes makes one responsible for directly funding anti-climate change research (though it does), neither do I believe BioD practitioners necessarily share in Steiner’s darker reflections. In fact, I have never met a single BioD farmer who does. Of course, your argument seems to insist that Bio D is racism and fascism by other means, or is, at the very least, a natural conjugation from first principles; that mysticism of any sort, essentially the denial of science, opens up our minds to evil mischief. Well, I cannot help you there. From my perspective, the practice of science is contaminated by mythologies it merely conceals, does not see, or denies.

      Ironically, your call for the ethical practice of science is precisely what I’ve been getting at from the very beginning of my participation here. I believe that to be a far more urgent task than whether a hispanic BioD dirt farmer secretly lusts for genocide. After all, it was Nietzsche and Freud who first proposed that genocidal fantasies live in the hearts of all men. How tragic for us all is the baby who cries for a mother he can never have. How destructive its rage…

    • nicknakorn says:


      I’ll keep this brief or we’ll further clog up this thread and go wildly off topic. If scientists such as Hawkin find limits to the application of thermodynamics then that will be a useful refinement defining under what circumstances thermodynamics is a pragmatic model. Currently, thermodynamics is thought to be applicable under all circumstances except possibly in the nanoseconds after the big bang; Stu’s tractor repairs will not be affected and nor will the application of physics, chemistry and biology to soil science. The same system of iterative model refinement and boundary setting, applies to the scientific method generally and thus I need not go through your list one by one except to say that I think Freud was a fraud.

      My emphasis on racism rather than science in one of my paragraphs is part of the argument not a change of position; I have not withdrawn previous comments here or elsewhere about my objection to, and the danger of, the mysticism in Biodynamics though I’ve had a special interest in racism for over 40 years.

      I agree about the exploits of the Ford Motor Company and mention GM’s similar role with the Nazis in my blog. If companies still espouse a formal racist mystical philosophy, as the Anthroposophists do to this day, then I’d do my utmost to avoid their products much as I bought nothing South African prior to liberation from Apartheid. The fact that there are many other ethical issues in the world to campaign about should not stop one from campaigning about the ones that are on one’s doorstep.

      I fail to see the relevance of Hispanic ethnicity to your argument or mine, surely the issues apply to everyone from both our perspectives? For me, though, the question remains; why support Biodynamics when similar non-racist, non-mystical alternatives are readily available?


    • Ken Payton says:

      This is in response to Nick’s July 3, 8:35 pm post.

      Nick, I believe this is the first reply in which you pay absolutely no attention to my central argument. The archaic origins of science and the persistence of sacrificial ritual therein is an active, energetic theme in both contemporary Anthropology and Continental Philosophy, as well as among historians of science.

      The problem with Hitchens et. al. is that they and their disciples have become habituated to a predictable knee-jerk anti-intellectualism all their own. Theirs is an intolerant tribal mantra of ‘with us or against us’. It is an absurd position devoid of subtlety and nuance with respect to living cultures.

      I do not spend hours patiently composing a reply so that I might read a remark of such breath-taking stupidity as “I think Freud was a fraud’. Nick, let’s be real. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Try as you might to be the voice of reason, we both know you simply haven’t the necessary intellectual range to respond in kind. But rather than admit any short-comings you relapse into simple-minded sloganeering. This is precisely the reason I cannot share in your world-view. It is lazy, unapologetic, and, finally, uncultured.

      Racism is a moribund concept. Though it may have an afterlife in the discourses of those marooned in modernism, we all know it is ethnicity and tribalism, the slight differences between neighboring peoples, that now animates the violence we read about everyday. Could an Israeli pick a Palestinian out of a line-up of mixed ethnicities? Or the reverse? Could a Kyrgyz identify an Uzbek? A Tutsi, a Hutu? Could a Serb identify a Croatian. How about a Montenegrin? We now witness the ugly spectacle of South Africans persecuting immigrants from Zimbabwe. Have you resumed your boycott of S.A.? Or is theirs a sufficiently acceptable level of violence to entertain commercial relations?

      I am sure we all would like to hear how the privileged, well-fed Western rationalist might set the world right. But, frankly, your presumption is appalling.

      BTW, I used the example of the hispanic BioD dirt farmer, and there are many, to elicit from you some idea who might be the target of their genocidal fantasies.

  10. ThetisMercurio says:

    Ken – at the end of Christopher Hitchens’ recent memoir he says: ‘The defense of reason and science is the great imperative of our time’.

    I agree, which is why I think this blog is so useful and important (and not at all doomed to obscurity).

    Nick is accurate about anthroposophy though it may be painful for some to read.

    I’m not in a position to agree or otherwise with your assessment of unreconstructed fascists haunting the ranks of Italian winegrowing families (I’m assuming in this case you don’t mean literally haunting, as in dead fascists) but you might like to read some recent research by Peter Staudenmaier,
    ‘Anthroposophists and antisemitism in Fascist Italy’:


  11. Ken Payton says:

    Well, nicknakorn demonstrates precisely why this site is doomed to obscurity.

    Organic ag. began as a function of Britain’s occupation of India. I won’t say more because the irony is just too delicious.

    Fascism was an Italian political innovation combining leftist and rightist political positions. Plenty of unreconstructed fascists still haunt the ranks of Italian winegrowing families, some of them organic.

    Mystical? I would invite you to read from the mystical tradition from centuries ago. Many mystics were burned at the stake for believing, among other things, that the sum total of human experience, both carnal and intellectual, constituted the mind of God. I leave it to you to tease out the historical consequences.

    Racist? The very ground you walk upon was once the property of native Americans. And the shirts you wear are likely assembled by 12 year-olds.

    Religion? Martin Luther King should have read Christopher Hitchens.

    This is my last contribution. The ignorance on display here is appalling.

    • nicknakorn says:


      Ignorance of the history of organic agriculture is shared by us all inasmuch as the jury is still out as to how long agriculture using organic methods has been around. The fact that the British in India systematised methods and technologies that were being used in other cultures and named that system ‘organic’ (notably in England and India by Sir Albert Howard between 1925 and 1940), should not lead one into semantic arguments about the systems themselves. Archaeologists specialising in the history of agriculture are constantly revising their estimates of when agriculture began. In India, south East Asia, the Middle East, China and elsewhere, systems of agriculture using organic methods go back at least 10,000 years according to current estimates. Recent carbon dating has also found evidence of cereal cropping from 23,000 years ago in Syria. While many of those systems also used mythology and racism as part of an integrated social technology in which religion played a significant part, the argument now is whether or not to ditch those aspects for good or whether to revive them; the Steiner machine, by which I mean the Anthroposophical network and Biodynamics, is keen to revive them and sadly, in my view, has had a great deal of cultural success.

      The history of science, also riddled with mysticism, has culminated in modern scientific methods that have, in my view, successfully modelled nature to produce scientific laws that are, in practical terms, true because they are reliable. That process has become reliable because science has thrown religion and mysticism out in favour of rationality. My own interests include combating racism and colonialism and it seems to me that science is the one arena in which common values can be found between peoples of all cultures and colours; simply because the scientific laws of nature continue to be true regardless of human meddling and thus an honest experiment will have the same results regardless of who carries it out.

      Biodynamics is dangerous precisely because it attempts to convince the unwary that it is the spiritual worth of the individuals and systems that determine the result. That in itself would be bad enough, but Steiner decides that in his schema, the white person is always at the top (whiteness being a reward for good deeds in a past life while blackness being the punishment for bad deeds in a past life) and, through his bogus karmic logic, white supremacy is maintained and organic agriculture is expropriated from the cultures from which it sprang. It is only the white ‘official’ version of organic agriculture that dates from early in the 20th century. I am saddened and frustrated that all attempts to highlight the racism inherent in Biodynamics is so often treated as an insignificant anomaly. If the peoples of the world are not to be constantly at war, we have to consign such beliefs to history; the alternative is more and more of the same devastation from the forces of colonialism and mass consumption.

      It seems to me that Stu’s blog against Biodynamics is a worthwhile and legitimate part of the process of enfranchisement and rational discourse to which, I would have thought, all contributuions would be welcome.


  12. nicknakorn says:


    it’s all about social justice. Why would one want to support the mystic racism and colonialism enshrined in the Anthoposophical Biodynamic paradigm when one can support ordinary old organic agriculture?

    You ask why anyone might wish to oppose Steinerism. I ask, why would anyone want to support a mystical racist neo-fascist religion?


  13. Tone Kelly says:

    It is one thing to question the value of biodynamics and ask the question of the usefulness of the process and procedures. However, once the line is crossed and the statement is made that biodynamics is a hoax, then the requirement for proof resides with the person saying it is a hoax. That biodyanamic wines get higher prices must be proved. I know many Bordeaux wines that are not biodynamic and they get obscene prices (e.g. 2009). I believe that the proof for either side is still missing and that more information must be gained.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Tone Kelly,

      It was the Biodynamic crowd that made the claims that their soil was alive, their vines were healthier and their grapes expressed a superior sense of place than everyone else’s. Then after reading Steiner’s lectures on Agriculture it was apparent that Steiner was fraudulent and Biodynamics was a hoax. I suggest you read Steiner and/or read the excerpts I’ve used and/or the comments from others and then make your own mind up. However, from my view point, anyone with half a brain can see right through Steiner’s charade, except the most diehard Biodynamic supporter

  14. ThetisMercurio says:

    Anybody got any new evidence to support biodynamics?

    There is a parallel with anthroposophical medicine. Here is a systematic review of randomised clinical trials, Prof Edzard Ernst 2003


    ‘Unfortunately not a single study was located which met the inclusion/exclusion criteria.’

    I suspect Ernst knew this before he started. His results are just another way (to use an English colloquialism) of stating the bleeding obvious.

  15. Tim McDonald says:

    Thanks Stu for your thoughtfulness and controversy at the same time. Very interesting!

  16. Jeff says:

    Why AgriBusiness Is Harmful!


    I have been reading your blog since the beginning. Very interesting stuff. I just recently watched the 10 part series called “Must-see documentary about GMO” and I thought of you and those that have commented in your blog. I hope you all watch this series, as it really touches on what “science” has done to the global food chain. It also is a clear warning to farmers using the term ‘sustainable’ (which is how you define your farming practices, Stu)….after watching this series, I’m sure you will all recognize the connections between Stu’s blog and the global marketing campaign of companies such as Monsanto.

    Thank you Stu, for helping to elevate our collective awareness of “hoax’s”, because we are all being fooled by the ‘science’ behind the AgriBusiness machine.

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      Let it be known to all that read this blog that I am not a stooge of Monsanto, nor do I own their stock. I will confess that Monsanto ripped me off with their pricing of Round-up these last several years, but now I have seen the light – Buccaneer Plus is much cheaper!

      In all seriousness, do you really think that farmers could feed six billion of us without many of the techniques, chemicals and BMPs that you so hate. I will look for that documentary, but please tell me it wasn’t done by Michael Moore.

    • Jeff says:


      I take you at your word. Monsanto ripping off people seems to be a reoccurring theme (see documentary).

      I hope that you (and others) watch this documentary….and no, there is no M.Moore.

      Yes, I do believe that some form of natural farming can feed the world. In what form it takes remains to be seen.

      Stu, for goodness sake, we can’t seem to be able to ‘feed the world’ with all of these chemicals anyways. The issue of being able to feed the world has little to do with BMPs, Chemicals, or modern ag techniques. It has more to do with corrupt and inefficient political institutions,war, and well too many people.

  17. Jason B says:

    Again, this boils down to what “science” is and what it can/cannot do. It doesn’t matter than science cannot disprove BD (yet), there’s lots of things that cannot be disproved (like invisible monkeys controlling hurricanes). Doesn’t mean you should give it any consideration though.

  18. This is one of the blogs I read for it is so provocative and a lively discussion. However, I wonder why biodynamics is so threatening to those who ‘feel’ they must malign it?

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      I couldn’t have asked for a better descriptor than “provocative” for this blog –Thank you. Yet, I would have hoped that the “why” would have been answered in all that has been written here, both by others and myself. Oh well, one hand giveth and the other hand taketh away.

  19. Ken Payton says:

    I think you passionate skepticism is misplaced, Mr. Smith. Though an intellectual division of labor is certainly desirable and necessary to tackle the multitude of environmental and political problems, I do not believe that policing the unsteady boundary between mythology and science informing biodynamics is the best use of your time.

    You could, alternatively, start a blog about the many miseries set loose upon the world by Monsanto or Bayer. My understanding is that they do ‘science’. Or you could explore the alliance between Big Ag and Big Govt. You might discuss the persistence of jet fuel in America’s water supply; or PCBs, dioxin. You might touch on national sacrifice areas, such as Hanford. Maybe a few words how it is the scientific community is frequently compromised by politics and money; why it is so many research institutions massage experimental results consistent with their corporate sponsors. Bovine growth hormone is an interesting topic, as well as the routine over-use of antibiotics on industrial farms. Glycophosphate is yet another emerging problem you might write about. Or climate change’s effect on biodiversity, the practical implications of the invasion of select non-native species.

    These are just a few of the many topics that are a sight more relevant to our world than whether burying a cow’s horn is a sign of the apocalypse. As I’ve said to you before, your understanding of the concept of science, though still alive in the popular imagination, is badly in need of an update. Science has its own mythology; I mean that its defenders like to pretend that it is the disinterested pursuit of truth. But such a conceptual purity exists in the imagination alone.

    Your proper adversaries are those institutions, corporations, and think tanks who go about the business of the willful subversion of precisely the ‘science’ you appear to champion. And they do it in the name of … science.

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      Help me out here. I don’t understand what you mean by “Though an intellectual division of labor is certainly desirable and necessary to tackle the multitude of ….” What I do understand is that you may well be right that this may be a waste of my time, but isn’t that my decision and not yours?

      Now, to those themes you’ve suggested as being more appropriate than “Biodynamics is a hoax” I would like to add world overpopulation and birth control. I understand and share your anger and frustration with our society; however I’ve chosen my battle. May I suggest that you take one of those important themes and start a blog of your own?

      I think we agree that our society has mangled many of the things we care about (your list and mine may differ somewhat) and I get distressed and depressed over it, but I would offer that science will win out in the long run. I’m reminded of Lincoln’s statement that you can fool all of the people for some time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. I sincerely hope that the cliché “Patience is a virtue” was right.

    • Ken Payton says:

      Of course you are free to reflect as you see fit. My observations bear upon the quality/effort quotient. It takes no work to do what you do. You risk nothing. You’ve a built-in audience of support, so, I suppose reading the same litany of insults day in and day out might be intellectually satisfying in a certain way. But, ultimately, you will never attract the finest minds to your work.

      My suggestion, and it is only a suggestion (don’t go Palin on my ass), is that you turn your attention to the real world consequences of Big Ag. You know as well as I that the Farm Press Daily, for example, hardly misses an opportunity to ridicule organic farming. There are more interesting battles you might engage.

      About starting my own blog. Good idea! Please click on my name. Then you’ll discover I’ve been at it for a few years now.

  20. ThetisMercurio says:

    From my reading the main argument against biodynamic growers on this blog is with the esoteric clairvoyantly-gained knowledge, not the mark-up. If as you say, nuttyfrenchman, it is purely the study and understanding of the complex interactions between organisms and environment (is that called the terroir?) that makes biodynamics good, then growers might need to research what is really happening, which would be fascinating; not go after some subjective truth which could be your truth, or Steiner’s truth but which is actually the equivalent of a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom – wasting time and energy. As a skeptic I can be pretty certain that the first sign of a hole is the mention of Higher Powers, Special Knowledge, Atlantis, Lemuria etc.

  21. ThetisMercurio says:

    The guy above is saying something like:

    … I am convinced that science can not yet explain everything and I am sure that not everything is explainable.

    The more we work in bio-dynamic, the more we learn to look, observe and draw conclusions based upon the feeling and not just the result of an analysis. ”

    None of us would dispute that science cannot yet explain everything and many would agree that it may never do so (though we would rather say we lack the tools for understanding than seek a supernatural explanation).

    If Humbrecht is suggesting we use our amazing and complex brains which integrate memories, knowledge and analytical thinking, sometimes subconsciously, to come to conclusions which some people may call ‘feelings’ or intuition, he has a point. If however he is describing something like the anthroposophical concept of intuition, which implies esoteric, clairvoyantly gained knowledge, he is talking out of his derrière.

    This blog is great, thank you. You may like this piece by philosopher Stephen Law: ‘Playing the Mystery Card’, the beginning of which reminded me of anthroposophy (and biodynamics).


    • biodynamicshoax says:


      The Stephenlaw blog is terrific and I urge all to check it out.
      Thank you,

  22. nuttyfrenchman says:

    It seems to me that your main argument against the biodynamic vine growers and winemakers is the fact that they are able to sale their wines with higher mark-ups than other methods of production.
    As a scientist in bio-chemistry (applied to wine making sciences), I cannot reject their approach because we (the scientific community) haven’t yet been able to irrevocably prove that biodynamy was an hoax. Nor have we been able to prove the existence/inexistence of God, for that matter. If you are approaching the whole thing on a purely scientific point of view, you cannot entirely dismiss any method of production because you cannot prove they work or don’t work. It is our duty as scientific minds to stay curious and open enough to be able to approach what we consider “truth” from a different point of view. Everybody has one, hence the reality of a multitude of different truth, depending on every individual.
    In complete sincerity, I think that the only good point of biodynamic methods is that the farmer has to gain an extensive knowledge of his vineyards, climates and environments. Plants interactions and plant-insects/animal interactions can be extremely intricate and, to my knowledge, not studied enough in academics.
    Let’s all remember Rabelais words: “Science without conscience is the soul’s perdition”, and let’s act for the best interest of the planet, not only our species.



    • biodynamicshoax says:


      We agree that getting a Biodynamic grower into the field more often is always good. However, that can be said of any farmer using all other farming methods, and clearly it is not the sole provenance of Biodynamics.

      I believe that with education, knowledge and real world experience there are certain issues that are so egregiously silly that the BS meter goes over the top and, IMO, that is Biodynamics to a smelly tee. I ask you, does every theory deserve your respect? What if I said I hiked to the top of Mt. St. Helena last night and dropped some great acid and as the sun came up I realized that it rose in the West. Now you didn’t see the sun rise this morning so isn’t it possible that just this once it came up in the West. After all, you didn’t see it rise in the East, and science can’t explain everything.

  23. Still Wondering says:

    I have been following with interest the debate you have created. And here in this interview, http://www.vindicateur.fr/article.php?id=2102 (in French unfortunately), Olivier Humbrecht, winemaker from Alsace who uses biodynamy since 1998, who is also a Master of Wine, states his opinion about the Science issue:

    “Vindicateur – La bio-dynamie, c’est d’abord pour vous une ”compréhension de phénomènes naturels inexplicables d’une manière scientifique”, pensez-vous que l’explication rationnelle, scientifique, soit possible en l’occurrence ? Ou bien qu’une part de la bio-dynamie se situe nécessairement, par principe, hors du cadre de la science ?

    Olivier Humbrecht : Vous donnez les réponses avec vos questions… Je suis persuadé que la science ne peut pas encore tout expliquer et je suis persuadé que tout n’est pas explicable.

    Plus nous travaillons en bio-dynamie, plus nous apprenons à regarder, observer et tirer des conclusions basées sur le ressenti et non pas seulement sur le résultat d’une analyse.”

    • Waldo says:

      This whole site is riddled with inaccuracy’s

      Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (died 30 March 1925)

      Your quote attributed to Steiner – under heading Did you Hear This? is two weeks after he deceased

      “As far as I am concerned, spiritual-scientific truths are true in and of themselves, and do not need to be confirmed by other circumstances or external methods.” Rudolf Steiner, June 14, 1925 LECTURE SIX

    • biodynamicshoax says:


      Thank you for catching that small mistake, which I’ve corrected. Steiner’s statement was from the Sixth Lecture, on June 24, but it was 1924 and not 1925 as I had first mentioned.

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