Memorandum submitted by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association (SFS 16)




1 Biodynamic agriculture was inspired in 1924 by the holistic and spiritually oriented research of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Over the last 85 years it has grown into a worldwide movement and is now practiced in more than forty countries. It is one of the most sustainable and organic approaches and is applicable in every climatic zone. See website for biodynamic FAQ. [1]

2. Demeter is the name of the ancient Greek Goddess of fertility. Today it is used as a certification mark on all products which have been certified as complying with strict international standards for biodynamic production and processing. See website for full Demeter Standards.[2]


3. Biodynamic Preparations are made from specially fermented materials of plant and mineral origin. They are used in the biodynamic system to stimulate plant assimilation, regulate metabolism in soil and plant and enhance the vitality and quality of the final product. They have been described as a form of homeopathy for the earth.


4. Research Biodynamic food is consistently known for its high quality. A research project recently undertaken comparing the effects of processed conventional, fresh organic and biodynamic food against a wide range of health and well being criteria, has again demonstrated the vitality and health giving properties of biodynamic food. A summary of results is available on the website. [3]




1. How robust is the current UK food system?

How well placed is the UK to make the most of its opportunities


The UK food system has become increasingly vulnerable and dependent on a low cost global transport system. With the majority of its food supplies coming from overseas, any interruption of supply (through oil shortages, terrorism, war etc.) could prove disastrous. This is exacerbated by the widespread policy of last minute supply by Britain's major supermarket chains - the lorry drivers strike and blockade of oil depots a few years ago clearly demonstrated this danger. Cheap oil and an ongoing cheap food policy is feeding a growing problem. It only needs a prolonged oil shortage (the oil and food price rises in the summer of 2008 was a warning) to make imported food unaffordable.


Challenges facing the UK food system

A fundamental shift in direction is needed if the UK is to respond to the challenge of producing more of its own food. Over the last century the UK has been leading the way towards creating an efficient and specialised industrial farming system. This has meant that farms have grown in size and fewer people have been employed per acre, artificial fertilisers and specialised mono-cropping techniques have been followed and expensive and toxic pesticides have had to be used. This has proved very profitable for the relatively few large sized farmers but is inherently unsustainable in the long term. In an age of cheap oil such a system can appear efficient and profitable. Scratch the surface however and enormous long term problems become apparent:

- Toxic residues in soil and food stuffs.

- Health problems caused by these residues.

- Environmental damage, loss of biodiversity.

- Empty landscapes with no people and rural unemployment.

- Factory farming and abuse of animals.

- Heavy reliance on oil and oil based products.

- Cumulative loss of fertile soil.


Soil is the most important ingredient for healthy food production. Unfortunately the practitioners of industrial agriculture ignore this and in effect operate a system of 'soil mining'. This is demonstrated by the fact that fertiliser use per acre increases year on year as result of ever declining soil humus reserves. Through applying lifeless fertilisers these highly exploited soils are themselves becoming lifeless. They ultimately serve as little more than root stabilising media. Were it not for our moist climate the once fertile soils of Britain would already be desert.


The UK is blessed with a great diversity of farming landscapes and a rich cultural history. Although suffering great decline there is still a strong skill base in rural communities. There is also growing consumer interest in being involved in local, sustainable food production. This is complimented by a well established network of highly successful farmer's markets, local food networks, distribution cooperatives, box schemes and community supported farms. Although still small in relation to the UK food market, these initiatives have a huge potential for securing sustainable sources of food. There is also a strong organic sector which can lead the way towards a new focus on high quality produce free from toxins.


How to progress

The UK could once again feed itself but only if the destruction of our soils is halted and serious efforts are made to develop soil fertility and introduce a truly sustainable form of agriculture. There are several things which can and should be done:


- No more fertilisers and pesticides
The success of the organic movement demonstrates that farming without fertilisers and pesticides is not only possible but also profitable and beneficial to the community as a whole. The health benefits of eating organic food free of toxins are also well known.

- Farm in harmony with nature
A healthy farm is a mixed farm embedded in the natural environment of the district. The intimate relationship between woodland, hedgerows, wetlands, meadows and hillsides etc. is vital for ensuring stable and well balanced bio-diversity and a healthy environment.

- Build soil fertility
Cropping must take the building of soil fertility as its starting point. This means arranging fertility building crop rotations, developing mixed farms with livestock fed from the farm, maximizing the use of manures, composts green manures and grass leys. Biodynamic preparations can be used to stimulate soil life and enhance vitality.

- Encourage a reduced consumption of meat
Livestock form an essential part of a farm enterprise. Their main purpose is to increase soil fertility. They can only do this if they are fed with home produced feed. This in turn limits the number of livestock each farm can keep and therefore the amount of meat produced. It has been calculated that a sustainable level of meat consumption is approximately two meat dishes per week.

- Encourage small scale quality production
Many more people need to be involved with food production, as home producers but also within the context of small farm production. Small scale is especially important to achieve quality. A small area of land can be far more intensively managed and made more productive than a large area of single cropping.

- Contribution to world food supplies
Britain is very heavily populated and its first priority should be to feed itself. By reducing imports of food from other countries, the UK would contribute significantly to food availability in other countries. There is enough land in these islands to supply the UK population if it is managed in a sustainable way (as described above). There would be little scope for food exports but this in itself will provide a large contribution towards the UK climate change targets.

- Biodynamic agriculture
A healthy farm is a mixed farm embedded in the natural environment of the district. The intimate relationship between woodland, hedgerows, wetlands, meadows and hillsides etc. needs to be considered and is vital for ensuring a stable and well balanced diversity. All of these landscape elements and the wild flora and fauna that accompany them are integral to a truly sustainable farm. Their presence is important both for the farm and the quality of the entire surroundings. If then the farm is able to rely on its own resources to feed its livestock and build fertility, a truly sustainable system can come about. Additional biodynamic measures can be applied to strengthen the vitality and disease resistance of both crops and stock and also enhance the nutritional quality of the food produced.


b) Challenges faced by the UK in relation to:

- i) water availability Food production methods which rely on a healthy humus rich soil use generally less water. Sustainable mixed farming in biologically rich landscape (with trees, hedges etc) tends to slow down water loss and hold moisture in the soil.

- ii) the marine environment The UK has a huge resource area. Unfortunately the same unsustainable methods have been applied as on the land and fish stocks are now greatly depleted. Toxins must be removed, beaches cleaned up, radioactive fallout must be stopped and the sea should no longer be the place where sewerage and industrial wastes end up. With care and consideration the wealth of the seas will return to our shores.

- iii) the science base The UK has a well of innovative skills and a lot of research skills. More research into sustainable agriculture would be very important to help the country move forward more rapidly. However there is also a lot of experience already available through the organic and biodynamic movements as well as long forgotten written research which could be drawn on to help progress.

- iv) training There is a great need to support the training of young farmers. Training should be practical apprenticeships rather than purely college based. Learning with other farmers is a well proven approach.

- v) trade barriers A few trade barriers might be a helpful incentive to bring about the needed change in direction.

- vi) the way land is managed needs to move decisively towards a wholly organic and self-sustaining system.


2. Emerging trends in the UK food system

It is likely that the interest in local organic food will continue to grow. At the same time the taste for variety and world foods will remain strong. This means that trade in exotics will continue to be an important part of consumer tastes. At the same time there will be a growing demand for the local production of all the staples. This fits in very well with the above mentioned suggestions for a sustainable farming system. The current local food networks would then become the main means for distribution.

Defra's role should primarily be to encourage a move to sustainable agriculture employing both the second pillar framework and a resourced research and training programme.



Bernard Jarman

January 2009




[2] As above

[3] As above