Just had to get your attention there. We’ve had a great discussion over native and nonnative plants over the last few weeks. I’m going to completely switch gears and move on to another topic – biodynamics.
If you’re not familiar with this term, let me refer you to my online column here. Biodynamics is a set of agricultural practices based on a belief system, not science, but is an increasingly popular approach, especially in the wine industry. (You can read a discussion of biodynamics in the vineyard in The Skeptical Inquirer here. This article is engaging as well as accurate – my column is pretty dry by comparison.)
Biodynamics is steeped in mysticism and includes special preparations that are used to treat soils and plants. Preparation 500, for example, is created by mixing water with manure that has been packed into a cow’s horn and buried for a set amount of time. Other preparations are more gruesome, requiring a stag’s bladder or cow’s intestine. A whole certification process has emerged in support of these practices.
While it may be easy to dismiss these practices, it turns out that biodynamic farms or vineyards are generally healthier than conventional systems. Does this prove a mystical force at work? Not at all. Biodynamic systems are also organic – using all of those good practices (low or no till, reduced pesticides, reduced fertilizers, polyculture, etc.) that have been demonstrated to be effective over decades of research. When comparisons are made between biodynamic and conventional systems, the impact of organic practices are hidden.
The few scientific studies that have compared biodynamic to organic systems – in other words, specifically testing the effectiveness of special preparations – have found no repeatable, significant differences.
Why do I even care about this? Well, it’s because it’s pseudoscience. It’s a practice that takes on the mantle of science, but doesn’t stand up to repeated scienific testing. Belief systems can’t be tested – even the inventor of biodynamics asserted that his methods were “true and correct unto themselves” and didn’t need to be tested.
Apparently simply being organic isn’t sexy enough anymore.