Why was a column praising biodynamics published (then withdrawn) from the “Liberation” site?

Question asked by many Internet users on November 17, 2022.

On the morning of November 17 appeared on the site of Release a forum entitled “Biodynamics, an agriculture at the service of the Earth”signed by “Demeter, certification mark for products from biodynamic agriculture”. This publication immediately aroused many reactions from readers, surprised that this controversial practice was thus highlighted, without critical elements brought to the reader… and that the treatment of the subject was left to a biodynamic certification body.

An examination of Demeter’s text also reveals that it is essentially a compilation of paragraphs (barely edited) from various pages of the organization’s website. Rather than a forum, the text therefore appears above all as a pure promotional text.

“Discussions on nature and ecology”

In Releasethe publication of articles under the label “rostrum” usually follows an editorial process (selection, validation, contextualization), provided by the Ideas department of the journal, published in the section of the same name. Although presented as a “rostrum” on the site, this biodynamic panegyric made its way through a completely different path: that of the section Forums & eventsdevoted to various events including Freed is a partner. “For three years, Liberation has forged a partnership with the Agir pour le vivant festival, organized by the Actes Sud editions, which is held every year in Arles in August”, explains Fabrice Drouzy, deputy editor in charge of the newspaper’s special issues and supplements. “During this event which, according to its designers, “aims to organize a long-term program of reflection and territorial experimentation in order to rethink the way in which all living things come together and our way of inhabiting the world today. hui”, intellectuals, scientists and biodiversity stakeholders exchange points of view and analyzes on the theme of nature and ecology. It is in this context that Release puts online on its site, in a dedicated space, chronicles, reports and forums related to the event.

As part of this particular partnership, “nearly a hundred stands” have already been published on the site and two central notebooks published in the newspaper. “Some are signed by big names that we regularly find in the pages of the daily newspaper or by guests, continues Fabrice Drouzy. Others come from organizations, associations or authors proposed by Agir pour le vivant, including Release does not necessarily share the points of view, but which seem legitimate in this space.

Quick Unpublish

During the validation of a forum signed by Demeter, the manager considers that the vigilance of the newspaper “has been defaulted”. The platform proposed by the organizers of Agir pour le vivant was therefore quickly unpublished from the site.

Contacted by CheckNewsAlain Thuleau, general manager of Comuna, the agency that coordinates the festival in conjunction with Actes Sud, also mentions an error: “We should have been a lot more careful. Agir pour le vivant is a platform for exchanges, debates and projects that attempts to address all the themes that could structure, build, a living society. It is in this context that we had an exchange with Demeter, obviously in no way related to their history. Our entry point was the subject of biodynamics, the fact that researchers like Marc-André Selosse say that even if it is not a scientific approach, and that even if biodynamics has a sulphurous history, It might be something interesting to look into. So when Demeter offered to partner with Agir pour le vivant, we remained open.

Informed by CheckNews the fact that the famous “tribune” is essentially a patchwork of texts from the Demeter site, Alain Thuleau agrees that we are there “on advertising”, and laments “a miss”, in the midst of the hundred or so texts distributed as part of the partnership with Release. “We should have been vigilant on that as well. Acting for the Living is not a promotional tool.

No interference from Actes Sud

Irony of history: the Actes Sud editions, organizers of the festival Act for lifet, are directed (until the end of the year) by Françoise Nyssen… whom Jean-Luc Mélenchon had questioned, when he was appointed to the Ministry of Culture in 2017, “his links with a sectarian movement”. The rebellious leader thus designating anthroposophy. At the heart of the accusation: the school of the “Domaine du possible”, founded in Arles by Nyssen, whose pedagogy is based on the precepts of the occultist Rudolf Steiner (the current of which he is at the origin, anthroposophy , finding themselves there from class books to the medicine cabinet, through various activities offered to students, as revealed the following year a investigation of Diplomatic world). Following the controversies, Nyssen had explained have done “a clear break with this school, to which [elle] proud to have taken part”.

Asked about this, Alain Thuleau wants to cut it short and affirms that the text was not suggested by Actes Sud: “I am adamant. The initiative to request a text from Demeter is that of Comuna. There must be no possible instrumentalization of this: the publication of this forum is, banally, a negligence – on our part, on Release too. Negligence of not having audited the text, in relation to its advertising aspect, negligence of not having reread with sufficient attention what was sent to us, and of measuring its impact. The impact in the context of the partnership with Release, and also in relation to the story of Demeter, her extremely sulphurous link with Steiner… We did that too quickly, that’s obvious.

“Drifts with vulnerable people”

As a reminder, biodynamics is based on the foundations laid in 1924 by the occultist Steiner, founder of anthroposophy, according to whom the world is moved by spiritual forces. Biodynamics, which wants to be close to and respectful of nature (it imposes a stricter limitation of inputs than organic farming), also summons the effect of alleged cosmotelluric energies, or the prescription of the eccentric treatment with esoteric origins (the ” clairvoyance” of the founder). In a previous article on biodynamics, CheckNews evoked the preparation “500”. This consists of placing cow dung in a horn, burying it for a whole winter, then “energizing” this compost (according to a process similar to those claimed by homeopathy) before spraying it on the crops. . The anthropologist Christelle Pineau, in her book the Cow Horn and the Microscope (2019), list of other practices that do not appear in the obligations of the specifications of the biodynamic labels, such as the insertion of flowers in a bladder of deer, or dandelion in a mesentery of cattle. Various dances are also supposed to promote the quality of the harvests… The degree of adherence of biodynamic farmers to Steiner’s precepts seems to vary greatly, ranging “of those who put it into practice in a “pagan” version, and those who associate with this object a form of spirituality, even of religiosity”, as Pineau points out. Until now, the agricultural interest of biodynamic practices, compared to those of organic farming, has not been established.

For its detractors, the esoteric spring of biodynamics is insufficiently highlighted by its promoters (for strategic reasons) and by the media and politicians (out of ignorance). Some see it in particular as one of the Trojan horses of the anthroposophical movement. And to recall that among the “truths” discovered by clairvoyance by the founder, the eccentric theses on astronomy (the Earth is a skull, Mars a liquid planet) rub shoulders with speeches on the hierarchy of races (and reincarnation towards races superiors on the basis of merit) to controversial educational approaches or medical theories both unfounded and dangerous (link between diseases and past lives, opposition to vaccination, etc.). In its latest report, published in early November, the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Aberrations (Miviludes) “[s’attarde] on two of the offshoots of the anthroposophical movement” likely “[d’]lead to serious abuses among vulnerable populations” – education and medicine – and counted 31 reports related to anthroposophy in 2021.

Why was a column praising biodynamics published (then withdrawn) from the “Liberation” site?