Birds shun organic seed as inadequate for survival - TIMES
Last modified: 2010-06-13 20:13:24
Garden birds turn up their noses at organic bird seed and cannot be tricked into changing their minds. A three-year study by the University of Newcastle that monitored birds' feeding patterns showed that they had a strong preference for conventional seed, with significantly more being consumed than organic alternatives.
Analysis of the bird seed found that seed grown with fertilisers and pesticides had an average 10 per cent higher protein content, which helped the birds to survive the winter.
Even when feeders with organic and non-organic wheat seeds of the same variety were swapped around the birds could still easily spot the difference.
Other differences between wheat samples, such as mycotoxin levels, grain size, energy content or pesticides, could not explain the preferences shown by the birds.
While consumers buy organic foods because they consider them to be healthier, the research showed that the factors governing food choice in human beings and in animals and birds are not the same.
The organic market now accounts for between 2 per cent and 3 per cent of food purchased in Europe and the US.
Dr Ailsa McKenzie from the university's School of Biology, said that the findings may trigger debate on the merits of organic foods. But she said that the study had looked at "one aspect of the organic food debate - it does not take into account the long-term health implications of using chemical fertilisers and pesticides, or the often negative environmental impact of conventional farming.
"But it does raise questions about the nutritional benefits of organic food and what consumers are being led to believe."
The findings are published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
TIMES Tinashe Mushakavanhu May 19, 2010
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