Food safety issues in the honey industry cause global concern. Rapid decline in honey bee populations continues to elude experts.
The world watches in despair as the honey bee industry continues to take huge knocks. In recent weeks vast quantities of honey imported from China to the USA were stopped at US ports after checks showed that the honey contained low to moderate quantities of Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic which is not approved for ingestion.
If this were not enough, another major source of honey was deemed unfit for human consumption. This honey came from Brazil where honey bees pollinate genetically modifies soy bean and genetically modified sweet corn.
Honey is a natural product which has a great many healthy qualities. Enzymes in honey have been proved to be beneficial to the cardio vascular system and other enzymes within honey are thought to have very good properties in the healing of wounded tissue, both internally and externally. Genetically modified honey is accused of unbalancing the action of the enzymes within the honey and it is for this reason that many countries are refusing to permit the import of honey that comes from bees which have been raised on GM crops.
Five hundred million bees died in Germany when crops were sprayed with the wrong insecticide. This is a major financial blow for German agriculture and will be the subject of a public enquiry into the events and decision making processes that led up to the use of the said chemical and into new policy that will be directed at ensuring that pollinating bees will not be harmed in the future.
And still, in spite of all of these regretable instances, the population of bees in the world continues to rapidly decline. The name being given to this phenomenon is colony collapse disorder. I had occasion to interview bee keepers today into their opinion on the decline in honey bee numbers around the world and this was their response. ” In our opinion several factors contribute to the decline in the numbers of bees. One reason that we strongly suspect is the mobile phone technology. Antennas are everywhere and they emit high levels of radiation that cause some sort of disturbance in the way bees react. We have carried out some minor experiments and we know that it takes many bees a lot longer to return to the hive than in previous decades.
In addition we suspect that the usage of slow release insecticides is having a detrimental effect on bees. Slow release chemicals were developed several decades ago to lower the lethal dose (LD grading) of chemicals to lessen the effect of harmful chemicals on humans and to increase the longevity of the chemical’s effect upon the harmful insect population. We suspect that some of these slow release capsules are not becoming active within the advertised time framework and are being brought to the hive on the bodies of the bees. Furthermore we suspect that the environment within the hive contribute into making the potency of these chemicals greater than in open air scenarios.
Other industries cannot be ruled out as not putting stress on the physiology of the bee. The plastics industry, among others, has been pumping chemicals into the environment for decades. The concentrations of these chemicals has been slowly increasing over the years. Bees drink water in the environment where ever it is available. Lets say that bees find a water source that comes from a plastic hose pipe which has been manufactured in one of the Far East countries. It is no secret that plastics that are manufactured in the far east are not as chemically stable as those manufactured in the west but because of lower costs, crop irrigation and garden hoses are now supplied mostly from China and India. We think that the Estrogen mimics that are present in the water which has come into contact with these plastic products is also having an effect on bee populations. These chemicals could be appearing in the water that the bees drink and in the nectar that they collect.”
We can see from this report that bee keepers are very tuned into what is happening in the environment We also see that some of their concerns could well have effect on food safety issues, particularly in areas where GM crops are being grown and concerning the issue of estrogen mimics. However the major concern lies in the decline in bee populations worldwide. Could it be that the humble little bee will present us with the answers on what we need to do to avoid destroying ourselves as a species?