Why the word Biodynamic should not be owned

There is an effort in New Zealand to legislate the use of the word Organic. Alongside this there has been opinions voiced in ‘the media’ about the need for the word Biodynamic to be similarly ‘owned’. While this private ownership has been achieved in some countries around the world,  in New Zealand this is not possible.


Given I am responsible for the word ‘biodynamic’ being declared generic by the New Zealand copyright office, it is appropriate for me to outline my reason for doing so.


Biodynamics is a term used all over the world to identify the agricultural methodologies that have arisen out of the ‘Agriculture Lectures’ given by Dr Rudolf Steiner in 1924. After 90 years, these methodologies are many and varied all around the world. This is now a very broad and open ended movement.


Part of the early development of this movement was its Associations – of varying degrees of democratic nature – which have formed to support this works progress. In an attempt to give some credit and identification to the commercial endeavors of the biodynamic farmers, these organisations have developed and generally own the Demeter trademark. It’s aim is to identify an agreed upon set of standards that mark the food produced by the biodynamic method as ‘worthy’.


Given these standards are developed and policed by people, it is inevitable that not all concerned people, agree that this trademark signifies highly nutritious food. Nevertheless it is there as a mark of what some consider an adequate expression of Dr Steiner’s intentions, and something the consumer can trust, to at least mean, no toxic chemicals were used in its production.


This should be enough, however naturally people market their products without the Demeter trademark, and use the term Biodynamic. I can understand the willingness of the Associations to then own and restrict the use of the word Biodynamic as well. However the word Biodynamic is far more than a  marketing trademark. It is a global term for the whole movement arising from Dr Steiner’s lectures, which extends far beyond the realm of commerce. It represents a  way of viewing and being with the world, that does not necessarily have any commercial interest. It is akin to the word Buddhism.


To add to the ‘problem’ of someone owning this word and thus limiting its use, we have to face the ‘problem’, that it is widely understood that the great majority of people engaged in Biodynamic agriculture, accept they do not understand Dr Steiner’s lectures.


I have outlined  (1),  the very real and present schism in Biodynamic theology, that haunts the BD world. On one hand there is a worldview put forward by Dr Wachsmuth, and on the other hand is the worldview best expressed in the worldwide Steiner Medical Movement, which includes many thousands of highly trained professionals. 


Interestingly, several Biodynamic associations openly support the erroneous Wachsmuth ‘polarity’ worldview, as expressed by Richard Thornton Smith (2), a leading member of the UK BDA. When I questioned why he promoted this view, he told me, he canvassed the opinions of many people before publishing his findings; and thus his view can be considered a  medium standard of  the official BD understanding. His view, centers on ‘Four formative Ethers’ suggested by Wachsmuth.  This view has been openly challenged, continually since 1951, by the ‘medical view’ which can be described as 4 astronomically centered energetic activities manifesting within a threefold physical organism. The medical view, in my experience, does allow the Agriculture lectures to be understood, and is the basis upon which all my Biodynamic innovations have been developed.


The responses to my article (1) has been very informative. The general reply has been that both the committees and the rank and file members, have no idea what I am talking about. They have no clue who Wachsmuth is, or how much the story they are being told by their accepted ‘leaders’ is informed by Wachsmuth. They also have very little idea of what the medical worldview is or how this can help them. In short this is a movement in complete confusion about its theology, yet they want to be legally responsible for owning and regulating the whole movements name.


So the dilemma is, if the word Biodynamic is owned by the Biodynamic Associations, then they, who are promoting a world view they acknowledge does not lead to a full understanding of the course, can regulate it use, against those who are standing here saying there is another well respected understanding of Dr Steiner, that does lead to a full understanding of his lectures. Thus those who are closest to his intentions would then have to find some other word, than that first intended for Dr Steiner’s Agricultural movement.


Given I have long promoted the ‘medical approach’ and worked to expose the insufficiencies of the enthusiastic, yet poorly educated ‘leaders’ of ‘the committees’, with very little real effect, it seemed best to inhibit, any ones ability to regulate the use of the word. 


Being an ‘association of members’ does not mean that the group is ‘right’. Indeed in this case ‘the groups’ have quite some miles to travel before they should be taken seriously, in this and several other matters.


I am very pleased and proud the word Biodynamic can be still used to name the worldview Dr Steiner intended, in New Zealand at least. This is not the case in many other parts of the world.



Glen Atkinson


(1) The Etheric Formative Force Problem     Glen Atkinson



(2)  Cosmos, Earth and Nutrition     R Thornton Smith (2009)   ISBN 978 1855842274