Honey Crimes

The bee world is in turmoil. From murder to honey laundering, the headlines have been bad lately.

We like to think of honey as one of the last realms of nature the human kind cannot control. “Honey is the epitome of a wild food.”, civil eats writes, and explains: “After all, bees can’t be herded and overfed like cattle, or immobilized like broiler chickens if they are to continue making the sweet substance.” The problem is that beeing free is what makes life dangerous for the bees.

The bee crisis has been seen as a minor threat by most people. Of course, in the end, honey or no honey, it does not really matter. Besides, we always have artificial alternatives, right? Well, the whole story is much more complex, actually. “Almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honey bees.”, the Telegraph wrote earlier this year. So it is important to see that the work of the bees is actually not only about making the sweet delight.

The bee crisis is connected with something called colony collapse disorder. Wikipedia describes: CCD “is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or honey bee colony abruptly disappear.” It is a problem which has been growing in most European countries and the US over the last 10 years. The experts are still arguing “whether it is caused by parasites, or a virus, or use of pesticides that play havoc with the nervous system of young bees, or a synergy of destructive forces coming together.”

Even though most grains are pollinated by the wind, “animal pollination is essential for nuts, melons and berries, and plays varying roles in citrus fruits, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, avocados, cucumbers, coconuts, tomatoes and broad beans, as well as coffee and cocoa.” says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from the Telegraph. He sees apian atrophy as a strong global problem which should be addressed more if we don’t want to end up in an even higher food crisis.

A very different – yet still global – issue surrouding honey has been in the media in the United States over the last months. Apparently, often what is labeled as honey, isn’t actually honey. A recent survey of honey sold in the US has shown that over 70% of the products did not contain any pollen, which means taking away the very essence of the product. “Honey minus the pollen is nothing more than nectar — sweet liquid”, Treehugger explains us.

There is two possible reasons why people would take out the healthiest part of the honey: one is because that way the product will not cristalize (even though these cristals are easily removed by heating the honey); the other reason is that without pollen, you cannot figure out where the product is from. With other words: what we are witnessing is what is being called “Honey Laundering”. At least “one-third of the ‘honey’ Americans are consuming isn’t honey but a heavily doctored sweetener that contains artificial sugary concoctions and even dangerous ingredients.”

Many speculations are made about the origin of these products. Most agree that it is likely that the fake honey comes from China or India. Civil eats says “’a third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China.’ Such a thing can occur because of a number of factors–the cheaper price of Chinese honey and the lack of a legal definition of ‘honey’ among them“. Asian honey is mostly banned in Europe but not in the US.

It is getting more complicated in the free world of the bees. After all we cannot control where they fly, which means we cannot protect them from dangers like GM-crops. We should try to offer the bees a healthier world to live in. What is at stake for us is not just honey, it is our food production as a whole. Albert Einstein, Evans-Prichard quotes, said “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live”. Think about it.

If you want to make sure you are actually putting honey on your bread, opt for raw honey and local honey.

Picture by MightyBoyBrian, thank you.

6 thoughts on “Honey Crimes

  1. Great post on bees… this is an extremely important issue, as bees are the pollinators of our most important foods, which are not only honey. Raw and Local… love it!

  2. Excellent points made. Bees and many other pollinators are an important part of biodiversity, the food chain, and of our food system. Thanks for linking both industrial agriculture and GMOs with the disappearance of pollinators – that’s a critical issue of which the public seems largely unaware. A great resource for further reading is the Xerces Society ( http://www.xerces.org/ ), “a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For forty years, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.” Among their publications are a number of fact sheets (free downloads) related to bees: http://www.xerces.org/fact-sheets/

  3. Excellent post!! I was so shocked by the faked honey production circle, especially some money-driven crazy people in my country should take a large part of responsibility. Feeding the bees with rice syrup..when creativities are used in a wrong way, the result will be devastating. Humab beings have been suffered a lot from our own inventions, it’s time for us to do reflections.
    http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/fake-honey.html more information about the fake honey.

  4. Thanks for all your nice comments and espcially the links. This is a very interesting topic and I will keep on reading about it, Xerces looks like a good point to start.

  5. Pingback: Endangered Foods | Kosmos 9

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