Most of us struggle trying to figure out exactly how “natural” and “organic” the foods we buy really are. We have to look for the “non-gmo” symbol for starters not to mention all the other healthy buzz words on the labels. With all the horrific practices approved concerning how the animals and earth are treated in the production of the food we consume, it’s hard to know what those labels really are promising. Add to the mix two more organic certifications and we have more questions. So what are Bioland and Biodynamic? Well, they both represent the future of agriculture, working in balance with nature, supporting biodiversity (the variety of life in a particular biological community) while protecting our environment and climate. The common value shared by members of both classifications of organic farmers is sustainability. Instead of the conventional industrialized farming practices their focus has been on a sound alternative ecologically, economically and socially. These are all words that make us feel good about supporting such efforts and people; but what are the differences in buying one label over the other?
They both are constantly improving on methods of organic farming developing solutions to the challenges of an adequate supply of healthy non-gmo food, animal friendly farming and climate protection therefore enhancing the sustainability of agriculture as a whole.
I’ve attempted to break the differences down using the main guidelines I found for Bioland. They are as follows:
- 100% of the farm must be based on organic food production.
- The permissible number of animals is lower.
- Organic-waste Fertilizer.
- No blood, meat, bone, manure or guano.
- No chemicals / synthetic additives.
- Nitrogen fertilizer is limited (lower than the legal maximum).
- Copper pesticides only for perennial vegetables (3 kg/ha/year).
- Majority of pasture must be grown on the farm.
- Less than 50% of additional purchased fodder.
- No genetically modified seeds allowed.
- No purchased fodder from genetically modified plants
- Certified product must contain 100% organic ingredients.
The next level of organic farming is Biodynamic which can only achieve such certification by adhering to the Demeter Farm Standard. Demeter which comes from Greek mythology was considered the goddess of harvest and agriculture who presided over grains, seasons and the fertility of seeds. The entire Biodynamic farm must be certified, not just a portion. Farms are inspected every year to ensure that the standard is being adhered to. The standard reflects the principle of the farm as a living organism being self-contained, self-sustaining and following the cycles of nature. As of 2016 Germany accounts for 45% of the over 161,000 hectares in 60 countries farming by the Biodynamic standards.
In addition to the qualifications for Bioland certification listed above, Biodynamic standards go a step further in the following ways:
- Prohibition of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides by additionally using humus created by nutrient rich soil components from within the farming system and balanced predator prey relationships.
- Water: Increased humus levels result in soil’s ability to store water naturally as well as emphasis on the preservation and balance of riparian areas, wetlands, grasslands and forests.
- Demeter farmers don’t practice the painful removal of the horns of cattle (Ouch!) This is a standard practice in conventional cattle rearing but cow’s horns are not only better-looking but they aid in the cow’s digestion and metabolism which has a very positive effect on the taste and quality of the cow’s milk. It contains quite a lot of vitamin E and beta carotene. There is a high proportion of valuable omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the fat. The taste of the milk is delicious because of the herbs in the feed. Demeter milk comes from cows with horns. It is even tolerated by people who have an allergic reaction to standard milk. Natural animal husbandry is always better.
- Only forage they produce themselves or which is bought from other Demeter farms is allowed and it should be free from animal meal, additives, antibiotics and hormones.
Several studies have shown that consistent nutrition with Demeter products has a positive effect on physical well-being. Any ailments are reduced and the immune system is promoted.
I hope this helps in clarifying some of the main differences between the two classifications.