On the Legal Status of Biodynamic Agriculture in Italy
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On the 20th of May 2021, the Italian Senate approved “draft law” DDL988, with near unanimity (a single dissenting vote). The bill will now return to the lower house for final ratification.
This law would, among other provisions, declare legal equivalence between “organic” and “biodynamic” agriculture, to the extent of appointing a representative of biodynamics itself among the technical panel that the Ministry of Agriculture will establish. Moreover, it dedicates public funding for the activation of first degree Master’s and doctoral programs in these disciplines, specific allocation of research funding in government research institutions, funding for their public and commercial promotion, as well as preferred choice for canteen lunches in public schools and workplaces.
We, as representatives of the European agricultural and general research community, feel the need to draw attention to this legislation, and in particular to the legal equivalence it declares between organic and biodynamic agriculture.
The European Commission’s “Farm to Fork” strategy envisions that organic farming could cover 25% of agricultural land by 2030, promotes practices such as integrated pest management (IPM) – to reduce pesticide usage - and precision agriculture, as well as recommending limits on pesticide residues in imported commodities. Other commission reports noted a lack of assessment of the actual implementation of IPM practices and emphasise the need for enhanced R&D for such approaches. While constructive debate on the means of achieving these objectives is ongoing, the need for more sustainable agriculture is beyond discussion. We believe that all agricultural techniques based on scientific experimentation should be given equal opportunity, because each of them can contribute to sustainable production. We find it absurd to confer economic and cultural preferred status to biodynamic agriculture, as it cannot be verified through the scientific method.
Furthermore, the promotion, by the state, of biodynamic agriculture (a model proposed by Rudolf Steiner, and, ironically - for an initiative promoting “made in Italy” - a trademark owned by Demeter International) whose provisions include burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, to harvest "cosmic forces in the soil", seems to us to represent the promotion of witchcraft in biology, and the equivalent of funding astrophysics faculties to teach astrology.
We suggest that biodynamic agriculture is not a suitable subject for public funding, and are worried that the explicit approval of pseudoscience by the Italian government is a further example (after the “Stamina scandal” of 2013) of the mainstreaming of esoteric ideas, a tendency that many of us had hoped not to see in the aftermath of the pandemic.
We ask colleagues and interested citizens in Italy and worldwide to express their dismay at these developments by signing this petition.
This petition is proposed by:
Giorgio Parisi (President of the Accademia dei Lincei, Fellow of the French Academy of Sciences, of the Accademia dei XL and of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S)
Maria Pia Abbracchio (President of the "Gruppo 2003" coalition of Italian Scientists)
Gennaro Ciliberto (President of the Italian Federation of Life Sciences)
Roberto Defez (First Researcher, CNR Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources, Naples, Italy)
The Council of the Italian Association of the Agricultural Science Societies (Massimo Tagliavini, Davide Viaggi, Giuseppe Corti, Alberto Alma, Luca Cocolin and Marco Marchetti - www.aissa.it )
Luigi Cattivelli (Director of the Research Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics, Council of Research in Agriculture and Economics, Fiorenzuola d’Arda, Italy)
Michele Morgante (Director of the Institute for Applied Genomics, Udine, Italy)
Bruno Mezzetti (Professor of Fruit Crop Breeding and Biotechnology, Marche Polytechnic University, Italy)
Chiara Tonelli (EMBO member, Prof of Genetics,University of Milan, Italy)
Martin Kater (Director of the Botanic Garden of Brera – Milan, Italy)
Riccardo Velasco (Director, of the Viticulture and Enology Research Centre, Council of Research in Agriculture and Economics, Conegliano, Italy)
Mario Enrico Pè (Professor of Agricultural Genetics, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Pisa, Italy)
Dirk Inze (Science Director VIB-UGhent Center for Plant Systems Biology, Belgium)
Alessandro Vitale (Associate Senior Scientist, Italian National Research Council Institute for Agronomic Biology and Biotechnology)
Robbie Waugh FRSB FRSE (Director, International Barley Hub, Invergowrie, Scotland)
Anne-Françoise Adam-Blondon (Director of research, INRAe, France)
Alessandra Stella (Senior researcher, Italian National Research Council Institute for Agronomic Biology and Biotechnolgy)
Nils Stein (Head of the Genomics of Genetic Resources group IPK Gatersleben, Germany)
Antonella Viola (Scientific Director, Istituto di Ricerca Pediatrica, Fondazione Città della Speranza, Padova, Italy)
Enrico Bucci (Adjunct Professor in Systems Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia USA)
Donatello Sandroni (Author, Journalist and Communicator of Science)
David Horner (Associate Professor in Molecular Biology, University of Milan, Italy)
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