Symposium "Earth as Superfood"

Eating soil is an old and established culturally important practice in many places around the world. In many countries the action of eating earth and soil-like substances (geophagy) is a mean of spiritual cleansing amongst other benefits (cf. Pan de Dios in Guatemala). There are even restaurants that serve soil as food, such as in Japan. The practice of eating earth and soil-like substances is also promoted by influencers. Will soil consumption become more widely accepted or even develop into a ‘superfood’ practice? What would be the implications of this?

Organised by ISRIC, WUR and Masharu

Mon 27 June 2022 14:00 to 18:00

Venue Impulse, building number 115

In this symposium, we will consider the possibility of “soil as superfood” with diverse considerations to contextualize the conversation, such as:

  • Access to food is a question of utter importance. The ever-widening contrast between rich and poor makes us question our relationship to food, at a time of superpowers diving into over-consumption and waste while in other areas the access to sustenance is a daily battle.
  • In the utopia of earth as a superfood, how would we deal with polluted soils? What about the polluting waste, such as outputs from nuclear energy, tainting our soils for centuries?
  • Those who seek an ecological transition, approached from an intersectional point of view, advocate for awakening, non-anthropocentric ethics and enhancing the dialogue between humxn and non-humxn.. Reconnecting to an awareness of our environment in order to exist sustainably, within a virtuous cycle of healing of the above-mentioned issues. Through the archetypes of Mother Earth (Mama Baranka, Pacha Mama, Gaia etc.), the earth element can also be approached as a spiritual food.

During the symposium we will dabble on the speculative idea of earth being a superfood through a privileged position, as in some areas, individuals do eat earth because the access to other types of food is scarce.


14:00 - 14:05 Introduction by Stephan Mantel (NL - he/him) – agronomist, soil scientist and head of the World Soil Museum.
14:05 - 14:35 “Eating earth” by masharu (NL/RU - they/them), artist and founder of the Museum of Edible Earth, who will be presenting their artistic research work on the topic of geophagy. 20 minutes presentation + 5 minutes Q&A.
14:35 - 14:45 “Eating earth in old Chinese medicine” by YiLing Hung (NL/TW - she/her), performing artist and PhD candidate at Rural Sociology (RSO), Wageningen University, who will talk about an old Chinese herbology book which describes using earth for medicinal purposes in different ways, including through eating.
14:45 - 14:50 “Thai earth” by Pan Vanitcharoenthum (NL/TH - he/him), artist and designer, who will share about the earth traditions in Thailand, including its oral consumption.
14:50 - 14:55 Q&A with YiLing Hung and Pan Vanitcharoenthum.
14:55 - 15:25 “Earth and earthlings” by Arne Hendriks (NL – he/him), a researcher, artist and creator who explores relationships between earthlings and Earth, as well as the creation of space to practice radical cultural change. Hendriks also builds pigeon towers with waste materials from the oyster mushroom industry. 20 minutes presentation + 10 minutes Q&A.
15:25 - 15:40 Pause and Earth tasting* by SasaHara (NL/FR - they/them)
15:40 - 16:10 “Contaminants in earth, risk for consumers” by Ron Hoogenboom (NL - he/him), from Wageningen Food Safety Research, who will talk about the contaminants which can be present in clays for oral use and the question of food regulation. 20 minutes presentation + 10 minutes Q&A.
16:10 - 16:40 “Earthing” by Elvira Semmoh (NL/SR – she/her) and Nelson Carrilho (NL/SW – he/him), the storyteller of the Mama Baranka Foundation (Amsterdam) and the sculpture of the monument of Mama Baranka (Vondelpark, Amsterdam). They will be talking about the sculpture Mama Baranka and the storytelling around the Divine Mother, which is the universal Mother Earth. 20 minutes presentation + 10 minutes Q&A.
16:40 - 17:20 Q&A / Open discussion
17:20 - 18:00 "Earth Treats". After the open discussion, the audience of the symposium will be offered earth treats* provided by the SmaakPark Ede, as conclusion to the afternoon program. These treats will be a teaser for the Earth Dinner organised in collaboration with SmaakPark Ede later this year.

The moderation of the symposium is assured by masharu
and Stephan Mantel.

*The consumption of earth is entirely at the risk of the participants. The organizing parties are not liable for damage resulting from the earth consumption.

The symposium is organised by the World Soil Museum, Impulse and the Museum of Edible Earth. The Museum of Edible Earth is supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL, Stichting Niemeijer Fonds and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Tijl Fonds. The work of masharu is supported by the Mondriaan Fund.


The event is free, registration is necessary.