On behalf of the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International, I would like to express my warmest wishes for the new year! May it be filled with passion, courage and vitality that will help us address the opportunities and challenges of 2023!
Throughout all these turbulent times, be they political, social, or climatic, let us not forget our main mission: to act as environmental stewards by promoting, applying, and advocating for, biodynamic principles as a solution in times of climate crisis. Our task is to provide nutritious food while taking care of the environment, nourishing the soil, and respecting the well-being of humans and animals.
The focus on our main goal should be our guide for the new year and must remain our principal objective, especially while looking ahead already to the next year, 2024, during which we will celebrate the 100 Years of the Agriculture Course by Rudolf Steiner. It is crucial that we are confident in our mission and start communicating openly all the positive impacts biodynamic farming has, not only from a nutritious perspective, but also when it comes to climate, nature and biodiversity.
Believe that there is no mission impossible, when you believe in yourself and in your ability to do it. Just always do it and prove it, accept that there will be failures on the way, but go on with passion and love; do new things every day, reinvent yourself. If you believe in your vision, you will reach it.
Helmy Abouleish, President of the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International and CEO of Sekem
Member's Assembly 2022 in Chile Picture by Harry Lee from ABDChile
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The ART Community Biodynamic advisors, researchers and trainers around the world
Train-the-Trainers Latin American Community
One of the great motivations of the ART area of the Federation is to continue building and strengthening communities of biodynamic advisors, researchers, and trainers at a global level. We know that communities are key places and spaces where support and communication networks are developed, and where rich exchanges of knowledge and experiences among biodynamic movement members take place. Strengthened and diverse communities can not only foster biodynamic movements that are resilient and adaptable to today's changing times; communities are unique spaces from which we can reconnect with meaning and be inspired by the deeper purpose of the biodynamic impulse.
In the words of Rudolf Steiner: "Where two or three people gather in my name, I will be among you"
“People who work together in a fraternity are magicians, Because they attract superior beings to their circle, When one works in a community of brotherly love, Superior beings do manifest themselves. By giving ourselves to the community, This donation of ourselves, this merging into a whole, results in a Strengthening of our organs. Then, speaking or acting as members of such a community, It is not the individual human who acts or speaks in us, but the spirit Of the community. This is the secret for the progress of the humanity of the future, Working through communities."
This year we have actively worked to foster and strengthen diverse communities of trainers and advisors across the world. Through the ART Funds, for instance we supported two pioneering community projects in Latin America. One project is the Train-the-Trainers community, who for the second year have been working with great conviction to support the training of young trainers in countries with emerging biodynamic impulses. This year through unique community work they supported the first introductory biodynamic courses in Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Another project is a pioneering initiative of BiodynamicAdvisors. A community project that seeks to strengthen the bonds of collaboration and learning among Advisors in the American region and that seeks to carry out the first training of Biodynamic Advisors for the Latin American context.
An addition to these examples, from the ART area we hope to support other important global community initiatives this year. Among others research initiatives, the Federation will be part of a global community of biodynamic researchers that will seek to collect all relevant scientific information and studies available and find the best way to communicate it to the general public, including farmers, consumers, etc. We also hope to continue to support the development of the global community of Biodynamic trainers and educators across the world, including among others the growth of the biodynamic movement in the Asia Pacific region, through its emerging communities of trainers and preparation makers.
Almost 100 years after its initial impulse, we acknowledge how important it is to continue to support the strengthening of the global biodynamic community today. Our commitment through the ART area this year is to continue to promote collaborative and community-based projects that seek local empowerment, network strengthening, and the social and ecological development of communities around the world. If would like to learn more about the various community impulses we are supporting, or would like to promote a community project and require more information about ART 2023 funding, you can contact Paz Bernaschina at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Soil Day Instagram Livestream with Dirt Charity, December 6
The Federation celebrated World Soil Day on 6 December. A few posts were published on our social media networksfor the occasion, all stressing the importance of healthy soils for the whole ecosystem.
Our soil is the foundation of everything that grows, and therefore for most of the things we deal with in our daily lives. A fundamental insight in biodynamic farming is that earth and living beings belong together: plants can only ripen into valuable food in vital soil. Biodynamic farming shows how soil can be cultivated so that it remains fertile and alive.
A living soil provides the plants with the nutrients they need and can store more water thanks to the elimination of pesticides and versatile crop rotations. For that the humus layer is decisive, since it binds CO2, regulates the air and heat balance and is an important source of nutrients for plants. Hence, a fertile and healthy soil plays a crucial role for the climate. There cannot be a healthy planet without healthy soils!
The Federation also took part in the livestream event organised by Dirt Charity on Instagram for World Soil Day. Clara Behr, the Head of Policy and Public Relations of the Federation, was invited to join a discussion with Arizona Muse to discuss policy changes needed to encourage soil fertility, and how our governments can help us move into a climate healthy future on land.
The petition aims to call on EU decision makers to keep new GMOs strictly regulated and labelled, meaning to uphold the mandatory requirements - including safety checks, transparency and labelling - in place for all GMOs on the market. This is crucial to guarantee GMO-free farming in the future and to know what is in our fields and on our plates.
The petition comes at a timely manner since the European Commission announced their plan to publish alegislative proposal on new GMOs (or 'new genomic techniques' as the Commission calls them) before the summer, most probably in June. The aim of the proposal is to remove the mandatory requirements in place for certain categories of new GMOs which would put in jeopardy GMO-free farming and food.
With this public event, the objective is to build on the momentum raised by the petition and to attract both media and political attention. This is why it was decided to do the action in front of the European Parliament in the hope of mobilising some members of the parliament. The idea of the event is to show that the Commission is gambling with our food with its legislative proposal instead of applying the precautionary principle.
More to follow in the next newsletter! To learn more about new GMOs – what they are and the risks and threats they come with – please have a look at our leaflet.
All sessions with the Federation, February 14 to 17
After a successful congress session last year on the subject of on-farm slaughter, the Federation will be present again at the Biofach Congress. This year we will be leading two sessions.
The first one will focus on livestock farming, and will aim to demonstrate how livestock farming can be a solution for sustainable agriculture, nutrition and climate protection. Within the current climate debate, cattle farming is often criticised, mainly due to the high methane emissions produced, and cows are seen as ‘climate killers’. Our session will show that cows can contribute to sustainable agriculture if managed appropriately. Dr. Anita Idel, veterinarian and mediator, expert in the subject, will present her latest findings and studies. Along with this scientific perspective, we will also show some best practice examples. For those present at Biofach, you are welcome to join the session taking place on Thursday 16th from 1 to 1.45 pm CET (NCC Ost, Room Oslo).
During the second session, the Federation will present, together with Regional Wert AG and Regional Wert Impuls, a performance calculator tool used to make the sustainability performance of an agricultural enterprise visible. Agricultural enterprises that have made their sustainable performance visible and monetised it using the performance calculator will present their results. Christoph Simpfendörfer, General Secretary of the Federation, will also present the outcomes of the pilot projects carried out in Spain, Latin America and Egypt. The session will take place on Thursday 16th from 3.45 to 4.30 pm CET (NCC Ost, Room Istanbul).
Christoph Simpfendörfer will also take part in a session on 'Integrating Biodiversity in Food Value Chains – successful methods, measures and perspectives from Farm to Fork' happening on Tuesday 14th, from 5.15 to 6 pm CET (NCC Ost, Room Oslo). The session will focus on how to integrate biodiversity successfully into food value chains within the framework of the 'Farm to Fork'. The question of balancing efforts taken by the farmers to include biodiversity on farm and beyond will be discussed.
The Federation will also be represented in a discussion on 'Better sampling strategies for telling apart the bad from the good guys' on Thursday 16th from 1.45 to 2.30 pm CET (NCC Ost, Room Seoul). Pesticide residue testing has become one of the most important tools for organic quality assurance. Often, however, this tool is poorly handled and the definition of 'organic' tends to be reduced to 'residue free'. The lecturers have published a scientific paper, in which they propose better sampling strategies, to make testing a really useful tool of organic compliance assessment. Albrech Benzing, Quality Manager of the Federation, will take part in the discussions.
Standard Changes for 2023 Find out about the main changes to the Demeter standards
At the beginning of the new year, and at the latest at the start of the certification campaigns around March, several Standard changes come into force. The Standards Committee of BFDI would like to take this opportunity to briefly inform you about the most important changes.
By far the most noteworthy change for the next years is the Standard for social responsibility. In about 18 chapters the Standard describes in detail several requirements around working conditions on Demeter farms, in Demeter certified companies and for Demeter certified traders worldwide. Besides the classic minimum requirements like outlawing child labour and forced labour, it describes all relevant areas, including minimum wage, safe working places, and respect for local and indigenous communities. The Standard differs from the regular BFDI Standard in more than one aspect. It is published as a separate document, and will be supervised by a newly formed sub-committee of the Standards Committee, the Committee for Social Responsibility (SRC). Another special feature is that the Standard can be individually adapted on the national level, by taking existing national legislation, and national risk assessments, into consideration. The task of ensuring a certain degree of equivalence despite the adjustments lies with the SRC. National adaptation in cooperation with the SRC will take some time, therefore it is expected that not every organisation will implement all requirements immediately in the first year, but that we will see a gradual implementation over the next two years, with the respective implementation into inspection and sanctioning in the following years.
Concerning the questions of ecological responsibility, the Members' Assembly adopted two Standard changes, on water management and waste management. Both motions follow the approach to not regulate every detail, but to focus rather on the existence of a management plan on how the respective farm handles the questions of waste and water resources. A waste management plan is obligatory for all farms, and a water management plan can be required by the relevant certifier if certain preconditions justify it. For the time being both aspects are only covered by the production section; it is to be expected that processing and trade will follow.
For decades it has been a requirement of Demeter certification that there is an underlying organic certification in place for every entity. This year's Standard change concerning the general scope entitles national certifiers to waive this requirement under certain conditions.
With regard to the fact that water hygiene has decreased in certain regions, the MA decided to permit additional treatments for process water and irrigation water, including the use of hydrogen peroxide and higher levels of chlorination.
To enable more animal husbandry on Demeter farms, the MA decided to lower the requirements for smaller poultry flocks on specialized farms with not enough arable land to provide the respective on-farm share in the fodder ration. The on-farm share is to be defined on an individual farm by farm basis by the respective certifying organisation.
As a result of a working group with broad participation from several countries, the MA adopted a new version of the bee management Standard, which was also integrated into the overall BFDI Standard at the same time.
The focus last year was definitely on production, for the processing section there are only a few notable changes. The gradual fading out of plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables got postponed by two additional years until 2026, meaning that biodegradable, recycled and fully recyclable plastic can be used for sensitive fruits and vegetables for two additional years.
Based on the result of two working groups comprising practitioners and certifiers from several countries, the MA adopted two reviews on processing sections. The chapter on cider and fruit wine as well as the section on alcoholic spirits were completely reviewed and adapted to the new conditions. The fruit wine section was split up between the production of fruit wine and vinegar. A renewal of the spirits section became necessary since the MA in 2021 approved the labelling of alcoholic spirits under the trademark. To ensure a high level of quality for the new product section, the former section on alcohol for further processing also needed a complete update.
Biodiversity in Vineyard, Field and Forest February 25 – 27, 2023, Museumsquartier 1, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna (Austria)
Preserving and building biodiversity is an important issue of our time, not only in the context of planetary boundaries. It also plays a crucial role in building resilient ecosystems. Demeter Austria has put together a top-class program for the second Demeter Wine Days and invites all winegrowers, wine merchants and, of course, interested farmers, to join us as we shed light on the topic of biodiversity from different perspectives. Registration for the lecture and excursion is open now and can be found withthis link.
The complete agenda, with all the lectures and events, can be foundhere. We’d be happy to welcome a lot of Demeter members to Vienna in February!
Agriculture Conference, 1–4 February 2023 Reflections on Agriculture as a Cultural Impulse Towards the 100th Anniversary of Biodynamics
Photo: Vandana Shiva no Fronteiras do Pensamento Porto Alegre
The Agricultural Conference will soon open its doors. The Section for Agriculture looks forward to seeing you there, either on site at the Gotheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, or online. Below we are pleased to draw your attention to two of our highlights – Vandana Shiva's guest lecture and the panel discussion “Women as pioneers in biodynamics”. Furthermore, Ueli Hurter gives an insight into the overall theme of the conference in an interview.
Vandana Shiva – Rediscovering the sacred in agriculture
1 February | 20:00 | At the Goetheanum and online
How has agriculture developed over the past millennia? We can learn from history that on one hand it has been an arduous struggle with the rigours of nature. But we can also learn that, on the other hand, it cultivates nature through the domestication of animals, the breeding of plants, the formation of fertile soils and the creation of cultural landscapes.
The diversity of agricultural impulses from ancient times can profoundly inspire us. For example, the indigenous practices of an intimate partnership with nature, the handling of sacred cows in India, the seed cultivation of wheat in the Near East, and the development of Milpa cultivation in the advanced civilizations of South America.
The ancient wisdom and "sacredness" in indigenous agriculture also fascinates Vandana Shiva. How can we rediscover this sacredness in agriculture that still lives on in indigenous communities until the present day? Can it become the basis of a new agriculture of the future? These are the questions addressed in the evening lecture by Vandana Shiva, to which we cordially invite you.
A panel discussion with Alysoun Bolger, Maaianne Knuth, Arizona Muse, Christine Saahs, Sherry Wildfeuer. Moderated by Lin Bautze
Since the 1920s, women have been shaping biodynamic agriculture a significant way. In addition to two workshops on Lilly Kolisko and the pioneering women in organic agriculture, we address this topic with an international panel discussion.
Who were the pioneering women in biodynamics, and what is the role of women in today's worldwide biodynamic movement? How is the role of women evolving in the global South, where biodynamic agriculture is expanding rapidly?
We look forward to discussing these and further exciting questions with Alysoun Bolger, Maaianne Knuth, Arizona Muse, Christine Saahs, and Sherry Wildfeuer. Moderated by Lin Bautze.
The presence of the past: 100 and 10,000 years of agriculture
An interview with Ueli Hurter
Wolfgang Held: "Looking back to look forwards" is the German subtitle of the upcoming Agriculture Conference. What is meant by that?
Ueli Hurter: "We are planning a trilogy. In 2024, when we celebrate 100 years of the 'Agriculture Course', we don't want to force everything into one conference, one moment. In 2024, we intend to focus on the profound impulses of the "Agriculture Course" and to answer the question how these impulses are being practiced or should be practiced today. The more we succeed in our reflection at the upcoming conference of our movement, the better we will be able to do this. We have understood that agriculture did not begin with Koberwitz in 1924. The beginning of history reaches further into the past. That is why we are now taking a deeper look into history, into the genesis of agriculture since its beginnings, perhaps 10,000 years ago."
Tickets and financial support Participation at the Goetheanum and online
Tickets for the Agriculture Conference include lunches from 2 to 4 February, coffee breaks, and the festive evening on 4 February. There are two discounted ticket categories available. Young people can additionally request a travel grant of up to CHF 120 and book a discounted accommodation.
With a ticket for the digital conference you can take part in all plenary sessions via livestream, and participate in online contributions and networking sessions with other attendees of the digital conference. Young attendees and those from weak income countries are eligible for a discount and can attend the digital conference for CHF 25.
If it is not possible for you to travel to Switzerland the main lectures and certain workshops are available online. You are also welcome to launch an event in your region to experience the digital conference together with your biodynamic community.
The sunbird in Eryuan Demeter Farm in Dali, China Watch the video!
Many years ago, inspired by the book Silent Spring, Ms. Wu Yali had a dream of building an organic farm. So in 2013, she went back to her hometown in Dali city, Yunnan province, south China, which it is famous for its splendid scenery and the rich culture of many different indigenous peoples. There she started to build the farm, aiming to protect the beautiful environment and bring health to people.
The first farm is called Nongchan Garden Farm, with a tree logo, which shows her care for nature and all its inhabitants. As the video shows, very rare sunbirds make their home in the farm. This farm mainly produces herbs. The second farm is called Guishan Garden Farm with a logo of rice paddies, which shows her determination of producing high quality food, mainly rice, to take good care of people. We can also see in the video that local indigenous people were working in the rice field.
This year, both farms received Demeter certification. And they take the responsibility of spreading biodynamic farming methods among local people. They not only attract the attention of the local government, but also of many local farmers to learn from them. We’ll see more biodynamic farms from this region in the future!
Hermin Tang for the Demeter China Association
'We are fed up!' - Demonstration in Berlin A call for sustainable farming
In the context of 'International Green Week' taking place in Berlin, Germany, from January 20 to 29, a joint large-scale demonstration is planned for January 21 under the motto 'We are fed up!'.
Demeter is a supporter of the German "We're fed up!" initiative ('Wir haben es satt') that aims to put astop to industrial agriculture, and support food production for species-appropriate animal husbandry and well-produced food from farmers for everyone. The initiative is led by farmers - both from the conventional and the organic sector - including activists asking for truly sustainable agricultural policies as the EU has set itself as a goal in the 'Green Deal'.
Since 2011, a demonstration is organised every year in January at the start of the world's largest agricultural trade fair, the 'International Green Week', in support of farmers and a more ecological agriculture.
This year, the organising team is sending out a call for participation by tractor. Participation is also possible on foot and even digitally. If you do not want to drive yourself, but would like to support other farmers, you can become a tractor sponsor.
The Biodynamic Demeter Alliance is excited to announce that the next in-person US Biodynamic Conference will be held November 8-12, 2023 at the beautiful Westin hotel near Boulder, Colorado, and will serve to launch the US celebration of Biodynamic Agriculture’s 100th anniversary throughout 2024.
As the first Biodynamic Conference hosted by the newly formed Biodynamic Demeter Alliance, we are excited to showcase the interrelated cultural (education, training, and community), certification, and marketplace aspects that encompass biodynamic agriculture in the US today. We are looking forward to bringing together inspiring speakers, workshops, hands-on opportunities, tastings, exhibits, community-building opportunities, and so much more. We anticipate offering some virtual options as well.
We are now accepting speaker and presentation proposals, and welcome submissions from the international community. Find out more and submit a proposal here. Proposals are due no later than Sunday, February 5, 2023.
News from the World
International Green Week with Demeter January 20-29, Germany
The International Green Week Berlin (IGW) is one of the most traditional trade fairs nationwide for food, agriculture and horticulture, and one of the best-known events in Germany. Exhibitors from all over the world present an extensive range of products. This year the IGW will give current social issues such as climate protection, circular economy, resource conservation and sustainable land use a stage.
Demeter Germany will be present in Hall 27 (booth 311) with the other organic associations (Bioland, Naturland) under the umbrella of the BÖLW(Alliance for the organic food industry) with the slogan 'Gemeinsam für bestes Bio' ('Together for the best organic'). The Ökologische Tierzucht (Association for Organic Livestock Farming) and the Regionalwert AG will also be present at the booth. The Regionalwert AG gives sustainability a monetary value through their sustainability measuring tool for farms - the “regional value performance calculator” ('Regionalwert-Leistungsrechnung'). The tool is based on 300 sustainable performance indicators.
Our presence at the event will be an opportunity to present the results from the added value of the German performance calculator and of the 'international performance calculator project' carried out together with the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International showing the benefits biodynamic farming provides for society. So far the project was carried out on Demeter farms in Latin America, Spain, and Egypt.
The IGW will kick off with the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) from January 18 to 21. The 2023 GFFA will address the issue “Food Systems Transformation: A Worldwide Response to Multiple Crises”. The international community must urgently develop and implement solutions to realise the right to adequate food. The only expedient solutions are those that address food security, the climate catastrophe, and the extinction of species alike. The 2023 GFFA is set to build on the UN Food Systems Summit for this process by promoting discussions and exploring possible ways for global and national collaboration.
The European Commission published a proposal on the certification of carbon removals at the end of November last year. The proposal sets out a voluntary EU-wide framework to certify carbon removals generated in Europe. The aim is to boost innovative carbon removal technologies and sustainable carbon farming solutions, while fighting greenwashing. The proposal sets out criteria to define high-quality carbon removals and the process to monitor, report and verify the authenticity of these removals.
Here are some possible examples of how to remove and store carbon that can be certified under the EU’s framework:
Nature-based solutions, such as restoring forests, soils, and innovative farming practices,
Technology, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or direct air carbon capture and storage,
Long-lasting products and materials, such as wood-based construction.
However, the proposal fails to propose concrete safeguards, does not require a positive impact on all sustainability objectives and leaves crucial issues unanswered. More specifically, it doesn't recognise the efforts of front-runners like organic farmers who are already improving carbon stocks, as the organic certification ensures not only a contribution to climate mitigation, but also to climate adaptation, resilience and protection of biodiversity and natural resources.
It must be ensured that 'carbon farming' contributes to biodiversity and ecosystem protection going beyond the sole focus of carbon sequestration. It should outline beneficial farming practices, such as organic or biodynamic, and exclude those that harm biodiversity.
Moreover, the framework is unclear on the financing of the carbon removals certificates and leaves the door open to voluntary carbon markets. Therefore, it is doubtful that the current proposal is the right policy tool to provide fair and reliable funding for farmers and to improve soil carbon sequestration. The framework also does not provide any safeguards to prevent land commodification and does not address the risk of land grabbing.
More news from the Federation on our websiteand social media:
Thanks to all our readers and authors for their interest. The next newsletter will be published in February 2023. If you would like to submit any articles or comments, please send your contributions to: email@example.com.