Looking at the bananas in the grocery store, I have wondered if organic bananas are worth the extra few cents they cost. After all, you peel the skin off the banana, right? What difference does it make? The answer is it makes a lot of difference. It matters to the birds that use the banana grove and to the workers who have to spend time applying and living with the pesticides. In Costa Rica, banana plantations typically apply forty-five kilograms of active ingredients of pesticides per hectare.
It is now approaching half a century since Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, was published in September of 1962. At one time, DDT was a household chemical. It was advertised in national magazines as just the thing for the happy wife. Carson’s book spearheaded a movement that eventually led to the banning of DDT in North America, yet DDT, a fat-soluable pesticide lives on in the food chain. Testing has found that its breakdown product, DDE, is found in the blood-stream of nearly everyone across North America, years after DDT was banned.
The types of pesticides used have changed since DDT, but we are using more pesticides than ever. Birds are in as much danger today as in the 1950s because modern pesticides are more lethal. Many pesticides that are acutely toxic to birds, such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon, are used widely on vegetable and fruit crops in the United States and Canada.
Pesticide use is even heavier in Central and South American countries. Pesticides that are regulated or banned in the U.S. may still be used and farmers often don’t have sufficient training to apply pesticides safely. Pesticide use is heavy because farmers spray pesticides according to a regular schedule, rather than as needed to treat a specific problem.
The top five crops in the United States that pose the greatest risk for pesticide poisoning of songbirds at the local level are Brussel sprouts, celery, cranberries, cabbage and potatoes. You can help to reduce the use of pesticides that threaten birds by purchasing organic produce at your grocery store. It’s better for you and your family, and its much better for birds and other wildlife.
If you feel that shade-grown coffee, which does come with a premium price tag, it too much for your budget, consider buying organic, fair trade coffee as the next best choice. Nabob brand coffee is working with the Rainforest Alliance to produce sustainable coffee and is a good choice for consumers looking to make a difference with their coffee dollars. Look for Nabob Rainforest Alliance certified cans.