Organic wheat: not for the birds

Global demand for organic produce is increasing by billions of dollars annually. But that pertains to human consumption. What about granivorous birds? Do they prefer organic over conventional wheat? Ailsa J. McKenzie and Mark J. Whittingham of Newcastle University addressed this question and found that:

” [ … ] captive birds in the laboratory and wild garden birds both consumed more conventional than organic wheat when given free choice.”

This study, outlined in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, was received critically by those in favor of organic farming. Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at the Organic Center, a research organization that promotes ‘the conversion of agriculture to organic methods’ told the LA Times: “This is a silly study. It suggests to me that they’re grasping at straws to say something negative about organic food.” Ailsa McKenzie, the first author, responded: “Just because the birds preferred conventional food doesn’t mean it’s better for them,” she said. But at least the study ‘will make people think’.”

Well, it did indeed. (please note: J Sci Food Agric is published by the Society of Chemical Industry, ‘where science meets business’)