What are Organic & Bio-Dynamic growing?
by Lionel Pollard, founder of WWOOF Australia
This information is taken from the introduction to WWOOF Australia's Worldwide list.
[ an alternative source of information can be found at www.organicfacts.net ]
Organic and Bio-dynamic growing are agricultural systems based on the recycling of wastes, the rotating of crops in a mixed cropping situation, the addition of natural materials, much work, and much thought.† They rely on natural, biological processes, and minimum energy requirements and decry the use of modern soluble chemicals either for fertilization or for pest and weed control, because these upset biological processes, and are energy intensive to produce and transport.
Both systems are concerned with fertility at all levels in the food chain.† Within the soil nutrients are released by the action of bacteria, fungi, worms and plants - so a healthy soil is a living soil.† A healthy soil gives rise to healthy plants which are better able to withstand the attacks of pests and diseases, and to healthy people.† Many chemicals used in modern agriculture destroy or affect the life within the soil, thus giving rise to an imbalance in soil health, which in turn affects the health of plants, animals, and man.
Good farmers understand the processes of nature, and work to help them.† Composting, returning wastes to the soil, mulching, green manuring, are methods they will be using to increase fertility.† Where particular mineral imbalances are recognised, these will be corrected using ground rocks in preference to soluble fertilizers.† Naturally occurring predators will be encouraged to help control plant pests - by the provision of mixed habitat and by mixed cropping.† Monoculture is the greatest source of pests and diseases!
In the west there are many Certification systems whereby farms and farmers are certified for their knowledge of organic or bio-dynamic growing methods, and who have inspectors to check out practices and complaints.† Within the developing countries, where certification systems are as scarce as hens teeth, practices will be, at best, traditional.
The (western inspired) Green Revolution failed because it introduced highly productive strains of crop plants, forgetting that these had been bred to be dependent on a high chemical input and that the recipient farmers could not afford to buy the chemicals needed.† In many areas, traditional seed material was lost and food production is now often lower than when it started.† Organic & bio-dynamic growing aim to maintain biodiversity and a gene pool, not destroy it.
WWOOF accepts as host farms any farm that claims to be organic.† If the farm is a part of a certification system, then any complaints about the farmerís practices should be referred to them.† You can help change attitudes in these cases by talking with the farmer about the harmful consequences of getting on the chemical treadmill - if it looks like he is heading in that direction - and suggesting unused organic practices if it seems these would improve his system.
PLEASE be sure you know what you are talking about if you attempt to teach the farmer - more harm is done to the movement because of misplaced enthusiasm than any other cause.† If you feel the farmer is using chemicals unwisely, and don't like it, then LEAVE, and let us know!
Sooner or later you will come across discussions about genetic engineering, patenting of life forms, and bio-diversity.† Though often dealt with as separate issues, they are, in my view, interlinked and the pressures to allow the first two and to ignore the reducing third one are all coming from the same source - namely the large chemical companies, which now control 75% of all seed production.
In their seeming rush to bow to the wishes of these companies, many governments are rushing through patenting rights legislation giving to these companies the right to own genetic material which in fact is part of the common pool of humanities development - seeds and plants which have been chosen by farmers, horliculturalists, nurserymen and gardeners, over the centuries, because of some perceived benefit the plant held for us all.† The profit from that work, man working with nature, is now to be handed on a plate to these companies.
Similarly our governments are giving away ownership rights to the genetically engineered "improvements", whether plant or animal, whether human or not, to these companies; and doing it without due reference to we, the people (after all, big brother knows best), or to the possible environmental and social effects.† You think I'm being a bit paranoid!† Already there are genetically engineered plants in the environment, which can tolerate herbicides - opening the way to an increased use of herbicides regardless of their other effects.† Recently bacterium have been released in the USA for use in pest control - but how can we be sure that this will not effect the equilibrium in some unforeseen way.† Most interesting of all, however, is a recent release of a bio-engineered bull whose genes have had human genes added so that milk from his offspring will not induce allergic reactions.† All this while the (so-called) debate is still going on!† Where will it end?† Does man really think he is the lord of nature?† Who is going to foot the bill for cleaning up after the mistakes?
The point of this rave is that, should you, too, come to the conclusion that these things are not to be rushed into without a lot more debate, and come across ways of saying so, please do so.† There is growing awareness in third world countries that some of these ideas, particularly the Plant Patenting ones, are going to be bad for them - and they are protesting loudly and clearly. (The recent granting of Patent rights to a US company on the properties of the Neem Tree - properties for which Neem has been used, in Asia, for hundreds of years - is a case in point).
Show solidarity with these people if you get the chance.† It will show them that there are people in the west who support them, and that this is no longer a national problem, but an international one!"
Lionel Pollard FOUNDER
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