Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Honey Laundering and Authenticity

Jan 19, 2011
By Bradley Kreit in: The Future Now Blog
| Research Manager, Health Horizons Program
Bradley Kreit was born in San Francisco and grew up in Oakland, California. Taken by an urge to explore other parts of the country, he moved to Connecticut for college and moved and traveled ...
food futures, transparency

Honey Laundering and Authenticity

It's hard to find just one or two things to excerpt from Jessica Leeder's great investigation into the large amount of global crime that has grown up around something as simple as honey. It turns out that, in response to U.S. and E.U. trade rules designed to keep antibiotics out of the honey supply, a variety of middlemen have turned up in parts of Asia to conceal the origins of honey--a practice that has been met with equal amount of money spent on tracking down the honey launderers.

Most honey comes from China, where beekeepers are notorious for keeping their bees healthy with antibiotics banned in North America because they seep into honey and contaminate it; packers there learn to mask the acrid notes of poor quality product by mixing in sugar or corn-based syrups to fake good taste.
None of this is on the label. Rarely will a jar of honey say “Made in China.” Instead, Chinese honey sold in North America is more likely to be stamped as Indonesian, Malaysian or Taiwanese, due to a growing multimillion dollar laundering system designed to keep the endless supply of cheap and often contaminated Chinese honey moving into the U.S., where tariffs have been implemented to staunch the flow and protect its own struggling industry.

Much later in her article, Leeder notes that since the honey laundering started in earnest about a decade ago, several countries that produce very little amounts of honey enjoy very large honey exports.

Despite the arrests, the honey industry has been watching suspect import numbers climb.
They are particularly incensed by three countries that, ten years ago, exported zero honey to the U.S., according to Department of Commerce data. India, Malaysia and Indonesia are mysteriously on pace to ship 43 million kilograms of honey into the U.S. by year’s end.
“It is widely known those countries have no productive capacity to justify those quantities,” said Mr. Phipps, the honey markets expert.

The rest of the article, which is well worth reading in full, points out different methods for concealing honey's origins, strategies for combating the fraud, and a sort of legal back and forth that seems out of place for what feels like a pretty ordinary food item.
In reading this, though, I was reminded of signals suggesting that honey may not be the only food subject to similar sorts of fraud attempts. For example, in late 2009, a group of students decided to use DNA analysis to try to verify the origins of their foods--and found that 11 of the 66 foods they tested were mislabeled. Not surprisingly, the mislabeled stuff was expensive--sheep's milk was actually regular old milk, sturgeon caviar was really Mississippi Paddlefish.
And DNA testing--the cost of which keeps dropping--isn't the only tool at a consumer's disposal for testing food origins and chemicals. A group of Canadian chemists have developed a little strip--sort of like a piece of paper for testing p.h. levels--to see if a food item contains pesticides, for example.
As of now, most of these stories about food fraud have received relatively little public attention. But it's interesting to imagine what would happen if stories about honey laundering and the like started gaining traction--and what sorts of reactions it could spur. Certainly, we'd see consumers examining their Florida orange juice, California cheese and so on a lot more closely. And, of course, we'd also see food companies responding by engaging in a lot of desperate marketing to demonstrate the authenticity of their foods. And many more middle men trying to conceal their supply chains.
At some level, I think that scenario is only a matter of when, given that, over time, we really won't need large governments to invest millions of dollars to track down the origins of our foods. With pesticide test strips, cheap DNA sequencing and the like, the scenario above--of increasing fears of food fraud--may only be a matter of when.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

IN defense of the AGRICULTURIST

As a beekeeper the CCD colony collapse issue is rampant - in large part due to insecticides etc. but BUT the REAL issue at large is FOOD DEMAND to MEET the hungry mouths of the WORLD> What really needs to be addressed is HUMAN POPULATION - the GROWTH and Taxation on the planet/world itself. TOOOOOO MANY MOUTHS TO FEED - the demand for food increases daily - farmers have got to resort to tweeking the DNA in plants so that food products will grow faster, longer, more bountiful and the tweeking includes pesticides etc.. genetically engineered etc...

THE GLOBAL ISSUE IS POPULATION GROWTH. The LACK of POPULATION boundries - the earth, planet, globe can only handle so many people - there is ONLY so much food to feed the mouths and bellies - it is the POPULATION EXPLOSION worldwide that is killing everything. POPULATION mean MOUTHS means HUNGRY BELIES means FOOD DEMANDS = we are doing ourselves into extinction.

POPULATION CONTROL is what NEEDS to be ADDRESSED, TALKED ABOUT and ACTION TAKEN> soon there will be no fishes, animals, agricultural products, water, space......


Bees are dying off worldwide and our entire food chain is in peril. Scientists blame toxic pesticides and four European governments have already banned them. If we get the US and the EU to join the ban, other governments across the world could follow, and save bees from extinction.

Silently, billions of bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don't just make honey, they are a giant, humble workforce, pollinating 90% of the plants we grow.

Multiple scientific studies fault one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these products. But powerful chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep selling this poison. Our best chance to save bees now is to push the US and EU to ban this deadly product -- their action is critical and will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

We have no time to lose -- the debate is raging about what to do. This is not just about saving bumble bees, this is about survival. Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for the EU and US to outlaw these killer chemicals and save our bees and our food. Sign the emergency petition now and send it onto to everyone and we’ll deliver it to key decision makers.

Bees are vital to life on earth -- every year pollinating plants and crops with an estimated $40bn value, over one third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees we could end up with no fruit, no vegetables, no nuts, no oils and no cotton.

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations -- some bee species are now extinct and others are at just 4% of their previous numbers. Scientists have been scrambling for answers. Some studies claim the decline may be due to a combination of factors including disease, habitat loss and toxic chemicals. But leading independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. This has led to beekeepers and scientists in France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, already pushing successfully for bans of one of these bee killers. Meanwhile, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world.

This issue is now coming to the boil as major new studies have confirmed the scale of this problem. If we can get European and US decision-makers to take action, others will follow. It won’t be easy. A leaked document shows that the US Environmental Protection Agency knew about the pesticide’s dangers, but ignored them. The document says Bayer’s "highly toxic" product is a "major risk concern to non target insects (honey bees)".

We need to make our voices heard to counter Bayer’s very strong influence on policy makers and scientists in both the US and the EU where they fund the studies and sit on policy bodies. The real experts -- the beekeepers and farmers -- want these deadly pesticides prohibited until and unless we have solid, independent studies that show they are safe. Let's support them now. Sign the petition below, then forward this email:

We can no longer leave our delicate food chain in the hands of research run by the chemical companies and the regulators that are in their pockets. Banning this pesticide will move us closer to a world safe for ourselves and the other species we care about and depend on.

With hope,

Alex, Alice, Iain, David and all at Avaaz


Bee decline could be down to chemical cocktail interfering with brains

Bee briefing

$15 Billion Bee Murder Mystery Deepens

“Nicotine Bees" Population Restored With Neonicotinoids Ban

EPA memo reveals concern that pesticide causes bee deaths

Beekeepers want government to pull pesticide

British Beekeepers' Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides

Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake