Biodynamic is a relatively new term, in the sense that it’s still percolating around farmers markets and hasn’t quite made its way into product packaging or advertising in most supermarkets. But, it will trickle down eventually.
As a result, short of talking to farmers directly, who, no doubt, will each have their own version of what biodynamic really means, it’s pretty hard to nail down a consensus on what the definition is.
However, to Demeter USA, a nonprofit organization that offers third-party certification to farmers, the term is not so new at all — they have been offering their certification since 1982. To be designated "Demeter Certified Biodynamic," farmers must not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, animal by-products, or genetically modified products. Farms must be recertified every year. And, perhaps oddly, crops cannot be grown in areas with strong electromagnetic fields. Animals may not be given antibiotics and poultry cannot be caged and must be allowed to forage outdoors.
But the big picture is this — a biodynamic approach to farming entails a self-sustaining, holistic view that takes into account nature’s cycles, taking one aspect’s waste product (chicken… output, for example) and turning it into an input for another aspect (as a crop fertilizer, for example) within the same farm. This approach also includes animals and crops on the same farm in a mutually beneficial environment, promotes diversity over monoculture, reduces reliance on resources from abroad, emphasizes strategic crop rotation and pest management, and ultimately, adds back to the well-being of the planet rather than subtracting from it. This is in opposition to the view of the farm as a factory which, as Jonathan Safran Foer argues in Eating Animals, is the underlying philosophy for corporate farms. It’s official — Demeter owns the rights to the term "Biodynamic," with a capital "B" as a registered trademark.