Food production worldwide is facing significant challenges, namely global biodiversity loss and increasing environmental problems. Biodynamic agriculture can show potential ways of promoting both ecological and social sustainability.
But what is the public image of biodynamics? In an online survey, three different measurement approaches were used to try to answer this question. Since many consumers are unfamiliar with the term "biodynamics", the term "beyond organic agriculture" was used. First, the participants were differentiated according to their attitude towards biodynamics (positive, neutral, negative). They then marked passages that they particularly liked or disliked in a short text describing the biodynamic method. Next, the participants rated eight statements associated with biodynamic agriculture in terms of their degree of agreement. Finally, out of nine statements, the participants each chose one statement that was most important or least important to them about biodynamics.
Figure 1: Average ratings for nine statements on biodynamic agriculture. Participants are differentiated according to positive (878), neutral (245) or negative (114) attitudes towards biodynamics (total of 1,237). Different letters for individual statements stand for statistically significant differences.
The survey participants were divided equally between female, male, older and younger persons. Approximately the same number of people were interviewed from each country (Great Britain: 310, Australia: 311, Singapore: 309, Germany: 307; total: 1,237). However, no significant country-specific differences were found. The evaluation so far shows that ecological aspects are very important to the participants in the survey. In particular, the statement that farmers take care of the soil, groundwater and wildlife in order to build up a healthy ecosystem and a high level of biodiversity was rated very positively. Social sustainability, including community empowerment and caring for the labour force, was ranked as less important. Statements that emphasised non-scientific, spiritual approaches were largely perceived as negative. However, consumers are generally open to a holistic approach to integrated food production. Even those who are sceptical about biodynamic agriculture as a whole are in favour of understanding and promoting the whole farm as a natural space with streams, native animals and plants.
For the future development of biodynamics, it is crucial to find out how it is perceived by the general public, for example to underline aspects with broad appeal or to prevent possible misunderstandings. The present work provides some exciting approaches, including scale-free methods, which are particularly suitable for cross-cultural research, and the novel method of coloured text highlighting. However, the study's authors point out that the results of the text highlighting can be very strongly influenced by the text provided.
Overall, the survey cannot be considered globally representative, partly because of the small sample size and the limitation to only four countries. Also, a general approval of biodynamics of 71% among participants compared to only 9% disapproval does not seem to correspond to the current prevailing conditions. However, studies like this are essential to better situate biodynamics in the global context and are a vital basis for public relations work. Further research in this direction is urgently needed.
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