march19-jays-bird-barnEarlier this week, I received an email that read as follows, “I want to provide wildlife with good, natural food and I am adamantly opposed to buying or distributing GMOs. What I discovered yesterday while looking for birdseed at the big-box stores, was that labels do not tend to address this concern, and the people I asked had no idea. I wonder if this question is on your radar, and if so, do you sell non-GMO, organic bird feed?”

Before responding to this email, I reached out to several of our seed suppliers across the United States and talked with folks in North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming and even here in Arizona. I wanted to be sure that I had accurate information before replying.

My seed supplier in Wyoming wrote, “I heard you had a GMO question regarding sunflowers being GMO or not, and they are not GMO. Below is an excerpt from the National Sunflower Association website: ‘Is sunflower genetically modified (GMO)? No. Sunflower is not a genetically modified plant (non-GMO). Europe is a large production region for sunflower and the EU will not accept GMO planting seed. The regulatory hurdles in the U.S. are insurmountable at the present time due to possible gene flow to wild sunflower. Without Europe and the U.S. there is not enough market size for the private sector to make the necessary investment in sunflower GMO.'”

A seed supplier in Iowa wrote the following, “Thanks for reaching out to us regarding your question about non-GMO wild bird seeds. The quick answer to the question is that there is really only 2 grains that you have a choice of non-GMO or GMO. Corn and wheat. Now, that being said, sunflowers and milo are the next 2 seeds that are in the works to be modified. More weather and drought resistant. The following ingredients are still non-GMO: Peanuts, oats, millet, safflower, tree nuts, nyjer, barley, buckwheat, and almonds.”

Armed with this information, I was able to reply to the customer’s concerns. I was pleased that I could assure him that all of our custom-blended birdseed products that are made right here in Prescott, at Yavapai Exceptional Industries (YEI!), are non-GMO, with the exception of our seed blends that contain cracked corn.

If you read my column on a regular basis, you know I frequently write about the importance of feeding quality birdseed blends that don’t have a lot of filler ingredients. Since the day we opened our store in 2003, we have never-not even once-used either milo or wheat in any of our blends.

I personally feel milo and wheat are nothing more than inexpensive filler ingredients when used in bird seed blends. Blends with filler ingredients are certainly a lot cheaper, but most of the time the filler ingredients in these blends ends up down on the ground. Birds are picky-they have their preferences. Some seed ingredients are more desirable than others, so the undesirable seeds usually get kicked out of the feeder instead of being eaten.

If you have concerns about feeding non-GMO birdseed to wild birds, make sure you avoid blends containing wheat and corn. One point to clarify-even if a birdseed blend is non-GMO, that does not make it organic, which is another whole issue. I personally am not aware of any birdseed blends that are formulated for the birds that occur in Arizona that qualify as being organic.

Until next week, Happy Birding!