By Daniel Klein
This short video explains so much about Monsanto's bid to gain a total
global monopoly on the world's supply of crop-seeds.
Monsanto and four other giant corporations have a global strategy to
destroy every nation's 'seed sovereignty' and reduce all countries to the
status of 'dependent seed serfs'.
Once they have destroyed all indigenous varieties of seeds, along with
farmers' legal right to save their own seeds they will have global control
of most food commodities.
The war-plan is to replace all indigenous, locally developed varieties of
rice, wheat, barley, cotton, corn etc with Monsanto's patented GM
monocultures.
Vandana Shiva explains this in just 5 minutes. The choice is between a
'toxic future' run by giant corporations and a local self sufficiency and
independence.

There’s been enough written about genetically modified organisms and Monsanto that it’s easy to lose touch with how they actually impact people’s lives. On a recent trip to India, Perennial Plate got a wake-up call from environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Here’s our conversation with Shiva on a seed-saving revolution, farmer suicides, and how female farmers are the future of India’s agriculture. 

Daniel Klein is a chef, activist, and the filmmaker behind Perennial Plate. Follow him on Twitter at @perennialplate.

18 January 2013Ned Stafford

 

Chemical giants Bayer CropScience and Syngenta are both disputing the conclusions of a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that says that bees might be at risk from neonicotinoid insecticides produced by the two companies. The report cited ‘the importance of bees in the ecosystem and the food chain’ and states that three neonicotinoid insecticides – clothianidin,imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – should only be used ‘on crops not attractive to honey bees’.

Bayer CropScience, which produces clothianidin and imidacloprid, argued in a written statement that it ‘has generated extensive safety data for its neonicotinoid-containing crop protection products’ that have confirmed ‘the absence of any unacceptable risk’. Bayer added: ‘We do not believe that the new EFSA reports alter the quality and validity of these risk assessments and the underlying studies.’

EFSA was asked by the European commission to assess neonicotinoids last year following the publication of two studies1 in Science2 linking the pesticides to declining bee populations. EFSA evaluated the latest scientific research on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, as well as regulatory approval data for the pesticides submitted by Bayer and Syngenta.

Focusing on the use of neonicotinoids as seed treatment or granules, EFSA assessed the acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development, on bee larvae and bee behaviour, and the risks posed by sub-lethal doses. Although the report ‘identified a number of risks posed to bees’ by the three neonicotinoid insecticides, EFSA acknowledged that in some cases it ‘was unable to finalise the assessments due to shortcomings in the available data’.

EFSA’s findings were embraced by environmental groups and scientists who previously have argued that neonicotinoids are a key factor in declining bee populations. Citing the report, neonicotinoid opponents say the EU should now enact an immediate ban of neonicotinoids. France, Germany and Italy have already banned some uses of these pesticides.

Measured response

Frédéric Vincent, spokesman for health and consumer policy at the European commission tells Chemistry World that the ‘commission has concerns over findings of the EFSA report’. The commission has asked Bayer and Syngenta to provide ‘feedback’ by 25 January. ‘As far as we're concerned it's quite clear,’ he says. ‘If the report and ensuing studies highlight that there is a problem with these products, then the commission, together with member states, will take the necessary measures.’

Bayer CropScience contends that previous research has shown that ‘poor bee health and colony losses are caused by multiple factors, the parasitic Varroa mite being the key issue’. Syngenta, which produces thiamethoxam, took a more forceful stance in its response to the report. ‘We believe that that EFSA has found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment, which even they acknowledge contains a high level of uncertainty,’ the company said. ‘We intend to deploy all means at our disposal to defend the use of this product.’

Syngenta also cited figures contained in a study issued earlier this week by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture describing ‘the value of neonicotinoid seed treatment in the European Union'. The study, financed by Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, the European Farmers Union and others, says a neonicotinoid ban would cost the EU economy €17 billion (£14 billion) over the next five years and threaten 50,000 jobs.

David Goulson, a biologist at Stirling University in Scotland and author of one of the two Science studies that triggered the EFSA assessment, described the Humboldt Forum study as ‘laughable propaganda designed to scare politicians into inaction’, adding: ‘The economic calculations have no basis in fact.’ He says that he supports an immediate ban on use of neonicotinoid seed treatments for oilseed rape, sunflower and maize. ‘The scientific community is already largely agreed,’ he says. ‘I hope that politicians will take the EFSA's statement very seriously.’

Finally, what Sharilyn Stalling has been telling people for years has been proven!

See this email and the attached PDF.Effects of Neonics on Bees


Dear all,
Breaking News!
Henk Tennekes has just sent through this vitally important report from the
Directorate General Policy unit of the European Parliament.

DIRECTORATE GENERAL FOR INTERNAL POLICIES
>POLICY DEPARTMENT A: ECONOMIC AND SCIENTIFIC POLICY
>
>"Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid
>Pesticides on Bees"

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
>>
>>KEY FINDINGS
>>1. Although bee declines can be attributed to multifarious
>>causes, the use of
>>neonicotinoids is increasingly held responsible for recent
>>honeybee losses.
>>
>> 2. Neonicotinoids show high acute toxicity to honeybees.
>>
>>3. Chronic exposure of honeybees to sub-lethal doses of
>>neonicotinoids can also
>>result in serious effects, which include a wide range of
>>behavioural disturbances in
>>bees, such as problems with flying and navigation, impaired memory
>>and learning,
>>reduced foraging ability, as well as reduction in breeding success
>>and disease
>>resistance.
>>
>> 4. Recent scientific findings are urging to reassess the bee
>>safety of approved uses of
>>neonicotinoid insecticides at European level. A current review,
>>carried out by the
>>European Food Safety Authority EFSA (on behalf of the European
>>Commission) will
>>give new insights into this issue.
>>
>> As long as there are uncertainties concerning the effects of

>>neonicotinoids on honey
>>bees,the Precautionary Principle in accordance withwith the
>>Regulation (EC) No
>>1107/2009should be applied when using neonicotinoids.
>>
It is a summary of what the EU experts and Reporter States regard as 'the
state of the evidence' on neonicotinoids and honeybee/ wild bee deaths.

It appears to overwhelmingly support the position that Imidacloprid,
Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam are directly responsible for the mass-death
of bee colonies in Europe and the UK.

It recommends that - since the evidence is so strong - that the European
Commission shoiuld apply thePrecautionary Principle and ban or
suspend the use of these systemic pesticides.

This does not mean of course that the European Commission will act
immediately on this recommendation but it suggests that a decision will be
made by the end of December 2012.

This is fantastic news - hope it transforms into regulatory action before
the next planting season.

Please read the attached document carefully and distribute to relevant
networks

Regards

Graham White
Beekeeper
Scotland, UK.

Over thirty percent of our agricultural crops depend on bees for pollination -- including apples, cucumbers, melons, blueberries, and almonds. Bee pollination means about $15 billion in agricultural production for the United States. But these creatures, critical to ensure our food supply, are quickly disappearing. In the last 60 years, the number of bee colonies fell by 45%. In 2006, US beekeepers noticed massive bee die offs - something they've never seen before. Every year since 2006, one third of bee colonies in the United States disappear. This mysterious bee die off came to be called "colony collapse disorder." Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald explains what's behind bee disappearance and what we need to do about it.

1

Original Link

AUSTRALIAN researchers have been astonished to discover a cure-all right under their noses -- a honey sold in health food shops as a natural medicine.

Far from being an obscure health food with dubious healing qualities, new research has shown the honey kills every type of bacteria scientists have thrown at it, including the antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" plaguing hospitals and killing patients around the world.

Some bacteria have become resistant to every commonly prescribed antibacterial drug. But scientists found that Manuka honey, as it is known in New Zealand, or jelly bush honey, as it is known in Australia, killed every bacteria or pathogen it was tested on.

It is applied externally and acts on skin infections, bites and cuts.

The honey is distinctive in that it comes only from bees feeding off tea trees native to Australia and New Zealand, said Dee Carter, from the University of Sydney's School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences.

The findings are likely to have a major impact on modern medicine and could lead to a range of honey-based products to replace antibiotic and antiseptic creams.

Professor Carter's two sons, Marty, 8 and Nicky, 6, think it's funny the way their mother puts honey on their sores. But she swears by it, telling stories of how quickly it cures any infection.

"Honey sounds very homey and unscientific, which is why we needed the science to validate the claims made for it," she said.

The curative properties of various types of honey have been known to indigenous cultures for thousands of years, and dressing wounds with honey was common before the advent of antibiotics.

"Most bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one antibiotic, and there is an urgent need for new ways to treat and control surface infections," Professor Carter said.

"New antibiotics tend to have short shelf lives, as the bacteria they attack quickly become resistant. Many large pharmaceutical companies  have abandoned antibiotic production because of the difficulty of recovering costs. Developing effective alternatives could therefore save many lives."

Professor Carter said the fascinating thing was that none of the bacteria researchers used to test the honey, including superbugs such as flesh-eating bacteria, built up any immunity.

She said a compound in the honey called methylglyoxal -- toxic on its own -- combined in unknown ways with other unidentified compounds in the honey to cause "multi-system failure" in the bacteria.

The results of the research project are  published in this month's European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

ORIGINAL LINK
BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER | 
More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled “honey.”The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies.

The food safety divisions of the  World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.

honey-without-pollen-food-safety-news1.jpgIn the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.

Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The contents were analyzed for pollen by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey.

Bryant, who is director of the Palynology Research Laboratory, found that among the containers of honey provided by Food Safety News:

•76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

•100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.

•77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

•100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

•Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn’t ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

The National Honey Board, a federal research and promotion organization under USDA oversight, says the bulk of foreign honey (at least 60 percent or more) is sold to the food industry for use in baked goods, beverages, sauces and processed foods.  Food Safety News did not examine these products for this story.

Some U.S. honey packers didn’t want to talk about how they process their merchandise.

One who did was Bob Olney, of Honey Tree Inc., in Michigan, who sells its Winnie the Pooh honey in Walmart stores.  Bryant’s analysis of the contents of the container made in Winnie’s image found that the pollen had been removed.

Olney says that his honey came from suppliers in Montana, North Dakota and Alberta. “It was filtered in processing because North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear,” he said.

The packers of Silverbow Honey added: “The grocery stores want processed honey as it lasts longer on the shelves.”

However, most beekeepers say traditional filtering used by most will catch bee parts, wax, debris from the hives and other visible contaminants but will leave the pollen in place.

Ernie Groeb, the president and CEO of Groeb Farms Inc., which calls itself “the world’s largest packer of honey,” says he makes no specific requirement to the pollen content of the 85 million pounds of honey his company buys.

Groeb sells retail under the Miller’s brand and says he buys 100 percent pure honey, but does not “specify nor do we require that the pollen be left in or be removed.”

He says that there are many different filtering methods used by beekeepers and honey packers.

“We buy basically what’s considered raw honey. We trust good suppliers. That’s what we rely on,” said Groeb, whose headquarters is in Onsted, Mich.

Why Remove the Pollen?

Removal of all pollen from honey “makes no sense” and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible, Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News.

food-safety-news-good-honey-sample.jpg“I don’t know of any U.S. producer that would want to do that. Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey,” Jensen said.

“In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law,” he added.

Richard Adee, whose 80,000 hives in multiple states produce 7 million pounds of honey each year, told Food Safety News that “honey has been valued by millions for centuries for its flavor and nutritional value and that is precisely what is completely removed by the ultra-filtration process.”

“There is only one reason to ultra-filter honey and there’s nothing good about it,” he says.

“It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” Adee added.

The Sioux Honey Association, who says it’s America’s largest supplier, declined repeated requests for comments on ultra-filtration, what Sue Bee does with its foreign honey and whether it’s u
ltra-filtered when they buy it. The co-op markets retail under Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, Natural Pure and many store brands.

Eric Wenger, director of quality services for Golden Heritage Foods, the nation’s third largest packer, said his company takes every precaution not to buy laundered Chinese honey.

“We are well aware of the tricks being used by some brokers to sell honey that originated in China and laundering it in a second country by filtering out the pollen and other adulterants,” said Wenger, whose firm markets 55 million pounds of honey annually under its Busy Bee brand, store brands, club stores and food service.

“The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.”

He said his company uses “extreme care” including pollen analysis when purchasing foreign honey, especially from countries like India, Vietnam and others that have or have had “business arrangements” with Chinese honey producers.

Golden Heritage, Wenger said, then carefully removes all pollen from the raw honey when it’s processed to extend shelf life, but says, “as we see it, that is not ultra-filtration.

“There is a significant difference between filtration, which is a standard industry practice intended to create a shelf-stable honey, and ultra-filtration, which is a deceptive, illegal, unethical practice.”

Some of the foreign and state standards that are being instituted can be read to mean different things, Wenger said “but the confusion can be eliminated and we can all be held to the same appropriate standards for quality if FDA finally establishes the standards we’ve all wanted for so long.”

Groeb says he has urged FDA to take action as he also “totally supports a standard of Identity for honey. It will help everyone have common ground as to what pure honey truly is!”

What’s Wrong With Chinese Honey?

Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in the U.S., where – in 2001 – the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.

To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin for the honey.

Most U.S. honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, and little was said.

The FDA — either because of lack of interest or resources — devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey. Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.

Mostly, the adulteration went undetected. Sometimes FDA caught it.

In one instance 10 years ago, contaminated Chinese honey was shipped to Canada and then on to a warehouse in Houston where it was sold to jelly maker J.M. Smuckers and the national baker Sara Lee.

By the time the FDA said it realized the Chinese honey was tainted, Smuckers had sold 12,040 cases of individually packed honey to Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Sara Lee said it may have been used in a half-million loaves of bread that were on store shelves.

Eventually, some honey packers became worried about what they were pumping into the plastic bears and jars they were selling. They began using in-house or private labs to test for honey diluted with inexpensive high fructose corn syrup or 13 other illegal sweeteners or for the presence of illegal antibiotics. But even the most sophisticated of these tests would not pinpoint the geographic source of the honey.

food-safety-news-Vaughn-Bryant-honey-tester.jpgFood scientists and honey specialists say pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.

Federal investigators working on criminal indictments and a very few conscientious packers were willing to pay stiff fees to have the pollen in their honey analyzed for country of origin. That complex, multi-step analysis is done by fewer than five commercial laboratories in the world.

But, Customs and Justice Department investigators told Food Safety News that whenever U.S. food safety or criminal experts verify a method to identify potentially illegal honey – such as analyzing the pollen – the laundering operators find a way to thwart it, such as ultra-filtration.

The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months. Almost 60 percent came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.

And websites still openly offer brokers who will illegally transship honey and scores of other tariff-protected goods from China to the U.S.

FDA’s Lack of Action

The Food and Drug Administration weighed into the filtration issue years ago.

“The FDA has sent a letter to industry stating that the FDA does not consider ‘ultra-filtered’ honey to be honey,” agency press officer Tamara Ward told Food Safety News.

She went on to explain: “We have not halted any importation of honey because we have yet to detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey. If we do detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey we will refuse entry.”

Many in the honey industry and some in FDA’s import office say they doubt that FDA checks more than 5 percent of all foreign honey shipments.

For three months, the FDA promised Food Safety News to make its “honey expert” available to explain what that statement meant.  It never happened. Further, the federal food safety authorities refused offers to examine Bryant’s analysis and explain what it plans to do about the selling of honey it says is adulterated because of the removal of pollen, a key ingredient.

Major food safety standard-setting organizations such as the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius, the European Union and the European Food Safety Authority say the intentional removal of pollen is dangerous because it eliminates the ability of consumers and law enforcement to determine the actual origin of the honey.

“The removal of pollen will make the determination of botanical and geographic origin of honey impossible and circumvents the ability to trace and identify the actual source of the honey,” says the European Union Directive on Honey.

The Codex commission’s Standard for Honey, which sets principles for the international trade in food, has ruled that “No pollen or constituent particular to honey may be removed except where this is unavoidable in the removal of foreign matter. . .”  It even suggested what size mesh to use (not smaller than 0.2mm or 200 micron) to filter out unwanted debris — bits of wax and wood from the frames, and parts of bees — but retain 95 percent of all the pollen.

Food Safety News asked Bryant to analyze foreign honey packaged in Italy, Hungary, Greece, Tasmania and New Zealand to try to get a feeling for whether the Codex standards for pollen were being heeded overseas. The samples from every country but Greece were loaded with various types and amounts of pollen. Honey from Greece had none.

You’ll Never Know

In many cases, consumers would have an easier time deciphering state secrets than pinning down where the honey they’re buying in groceries actually came from.

The majority of the honey that Bryant’s analysis found to have no pollen was packaged as store brands by outside companies but carried a label unique to the food chain. For example, Giant Eagle has a ValuTime label on some of its honey. In Target it’s called Market Pantry, Naturally Preferred  and others. Walmart uses Great Value and Safeway just says Safeway. Wegmans also uses its own name.

Who actually bottled these store brands is often a mystery.

A noteworthy exception is Golden Heritage of Hillsboro, Kan. The company either puts its name or decipherable initials on the back of store brands it fills.

“We’re never bashful about discussing the products we put out” said Wenger, the company’s quality director. “We want people to know who to contact if they have questions.”

The big grocery chains were no help in identifying the sources of the honey they package in their store brands.

For example, when Food Safety News was hunting the source of nine samples that came back as ultra-filtered from QFC, Fred Myer and King Sooper, the various customer service numbers all led to representatives of Kroger, which owns them all. The replies were identical: “We can’t release that information. It is proprietary.”

food-safety-news-Sue-Bee-honey-ad.jpgOne of the customer service representatives said the contact address on two of the honeys being questioned was in Sioux City, Iowa, which is where Sioux Bee’s corporate office is located.

Jessica Carlson, a public relations person for Target, waved the proprietary banner and also refused to say whether it was Target management or the honey suppliers that wanted the source of the honey kept from the public.

Similar non-answers came from representatives of Safeway, Walmart and Giant Eagle.

The drugstores weren’t any more open with the sources of their house brands of honey. A Rite Aid representative said “if it’s not marked made in China, than it’s made in the United States.” She didn’t know who made it but said “I’ll ask someone.”

Rite Aid, Walgreen and CVS have yet to supply the information.

Only two smaller Pacific Northwest grocery chains – Haggen and Metropolitan Market – both selling honey without pollen, weren’t bashful about the source of their honey. Haggen said right off that its brand comes from Golden Heritage. Metropolitan Market said its honey – Western Family – is packed by Bee Maid Honey, a co-op of beekeepers from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Pollen? Who Cares?

Why should consumers care if their honey has had its pollen removed?

“Raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties,” says Kathy Egan, dietitian at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.  ”Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.”

But beyond pollen’s reported enzymes, antioxidants and well documented anti-allergenic benefits, a growing population of natural food advocates just don’t want their honey messed with.

There is enormous variety among honeys. They range in color from glass-clear to a dark mahogany and in consistency from watery to chunky to a crystallized solid. It’s the plants and flowers where the bees forage for nectar that will determine the significant difference in the taste, aroma and color of what the bees produce. It is the processing that controls the texture.

Food historians say that in the 1950s the typical grocery might have offered three or four different brands of honey.  Today, a fair-sized store will offer 40 to 50 different types, flavors and sources of honey out of the estimated 300 different honeys made in the U.S.. And with the attractiveness of natural food and the locavore movement, honey’s popularity is burgeoning. Unfortunately, with it comes the potential for fraud.

Concocting a sweet-tasting syrup out of cane, corn or beet sugar, rice syrup or any of more than a dozen sweetening agents is a great deal easier, quicker and far less expensive than dealing with the natural brew of bees.

However, even the most dedicated beekeeper can unknowingly put incorrect information on a honey jar’s label.

Bryant has examined nearly 2,000 samples of honey sent in by beekeepers, honey importers, and ag officials checking commercial brands off store shelves. Types include premium honey such as “buckwheat, tupelo, sage, orange blossom, and sourwood” produced in Florida, North Carolina, California, New York and Virginia and “fireweed” from Alaska.

“Almost all were incorrectly labeled based on their pollen and nectar contents,” he said.

Out of the 60 plus samples that Bryant tested for Food Safety News, the absolute most flavorful said “blackberry” on the label. When Bryant concluded his examination of the pollen in this sample he found clover and wildflowers clearly outnumbering a smattering of grains of blackberry pollen.

For the most part we are not talking about intentional fraud here. Contrary to their most fervent wishes, beekeepers can’t control where their bees actually forage any more than they can keep the tides from changing. They offer their best guess on the predominant foliage within flying distance of the hives.

“I think we need a truth in labeling law in the U.S. as they have in other countries,” Bryant added.

FDA Ignores Pleas

No one can say for sure why the FDA has ignored repeated pleas from Congress, beekeepers and the honey industry to develop a U.S. standard for identification for honey.

Nancy Gentry owns the small Cross Creek Honey Company in Interlachen, Fla., and she isn’t worried about the quality of the honey she sells.

“I harvest my own honey. We put the frames in an extractor, spin it out, strain it, and it goes into a jar. It’s honey the way bees intended,” Gentry said.

But the negative stories on the discovery of tainted and bogus honey raised her fears for the public’s perception of honey.

food-safety-news-honey-samples-tested.jpgShe spent months of studying what the rest of the world was doing to protect consumers from tainted honey and questioning beekeepers and industry on what was needed here. Gentry became the leading force in crafting language for Florida to develop the nation’s first standard for identification for honey.

In July 2009, Florida adopted the standard and placed its Division of Food Safety in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in charge of enforcing it.  It’s since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina and is somewhere in the state legislative or regulatory maze in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Texas, Kansas, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and others.

John Ambrose’s battle for a national definition goes back 36 years. He said the issue is of great importance to North Carolina because it has more beekeepers than any other state in the country.

He and others tried to convince FDA that a single national standard for honey to help prevent adulterated honey from being sold was needed. The agency promised him it would be on the books within two years.

“But that never happened,” said Ambrose, a professor and entomologist at North Carolina State University and apiculturist, or bee expert. North Carolina followed Florida’s lead and passed its own identification standards last year.

Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association’s honey standards says the language is very simple, ”Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that’s adulteration,” Ambrose told Food Safety News.

But still, he says he’s asked all the time how to ensure that you’re buying quality honey.  ”The fact is, unless you’re buying from a beekeeper, you’re at risk,” was his uncomfortably blunt reply.

Eric Silva, counsel for the American Honey Producers Association said the standard is a simple but essential tool in ensuring the quality and safety of honey consumed by millions of Americans each year.

“Without it, the FDA and their trade enforcement counterparts are severely limited in their ability to combat the flow of illicit and potentially dangerous honey into this country,” Silva told Food Safety News.

It’s not just beekeepers, consumers and the industry that FDA officials either ignore or slough off with comments that they’re too busy.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer is one of more than 20 U.S. senators and members of Congress of both parties who have asked the FDA repeatedly to create a federal “pure honey” standard, similar to what the rest of the world has established.

They get the same answer that Ambrose got in 1975:  ”Any day now.”

—————-

See “Top Pollen Detective Finds Honey a Sticky Business” on Food Safety News.

CLick Here for Original Link

BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER | 

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Vaughn Bryant peered through the eye piece of his microscope, making infinitesimally small adjustments on the position of the slide beneath the lens.“Nothing,” he said, and switched the slide for another.

Thumbnail image for food-safety-news-Vaughn-Bryant-honey-tester.jpg“Again, nothing,” he said after about 40 seconds, and substituted another glass slide with a smudge in its center.

“OK. We’ve got clover. Some nice cherry, plum and rose.”

Moving the slide a bit, the professor of anthropology and director of Texas A&M’s palynology research laboratory added:

“I see some blackberry, a couple of birch. Looks like a good Northwest collection.”

Bryant was not looking at the makings of a dessert or a salad. He was analyzing some of the more than 60 samples of honey that Food Safety News bought in grocery stores, at farmers markets and in big box, natural food and drug stores across the country.

The results of Bryant’s analysis, which Food Safety News paid for, found that more than 75 percent of honey sold in the U.S. has had its pollen filtered out.

The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.

Food Safety News asked Bryant to look for pollen because that’s what palynologists do. But Bryant is also a melissopalynologist, which means he also specializes in the study of pollen in honey.

The professor entered the sticky world of honey in 1976, when he was asked by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S.Department of Agriculture to examine domestic honey purchased by the federal government as part of its farm subsidy program, so U.S. beekeepers would have a stable outlet for their honey.

He refined the analytical protocol he would use as he went along, diluting small amounts of honey, then washing them in various acids, some very volatile. Then he heated, washed, centrifuged, rewashed, treated with more acid, heated and centrifuged them one last time. The acids destroys everything in the honey but pollen.

He inspected a wide range of government-supplied samples and, in 94 percent of the cases, found pollen that was linked to nectar sources from the U.S. But 6 percent of the samples showed that foreign honey, mostly from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, was being sold back to the government fraudulently.

Today, half of Bryant’s work involves forensic pollen studies; another 25 percent involves archaeological sites and the rest is pure pollen and honey research.

There are 250,000 different plants just in the United States that can be used by a honey bee, Bryant said. He can easily identify hundreds of the more common pollens on sight. In his lab, two walls are covered with huge charts of enlarged grains of pollen. In the next room, another wall holds cabinets that contain a $2 million collection of slide-out trays cataloguing 20,000 modern pollen samples from around the world, mostly donated by oil companies.

Since much of his work may involve honey products transshipped from China he has worked hard to get samples and reference material on Asia honey and pollen.

“So I’ve got every Chinese pollen book that I can get my hands on that shows me the pollen types that exist in China and neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Taiwan,” he said.

This type of pollen analysis at the few labs in Europe that offer it can run $1,200 per sample or more according to honey packers who use the service. Bryant often charges far less than $100 for his basic pollen identification.  That’s “barely enough to cover chemicals and supplies,” especially when he’s doing it as a service for mom-and-pop-sized beekeepers and honey packers, he said.

His customers are honey importers who want to know whether they’re really getting what they’re paying for from foreign suppliers and beekeepers who send him samples, so they can track what their bees are harvesting and what they can accurately say on their honey’s labels.

The 71-year-old professor also does forensic work for several federal investigatory agencies mostly involved with anti-terrorism and anti-smuggling efforts. He refuses to discuss any of this work for those clients.

“I am concerned about the import of unsafe products and about the government’s apparent apathy towards trying to put a stop to the illegal importation of honey,” Bryant said.

“I feel my efforts are helping to fight this battle.”

Sometimes his pollen analyses are just fun.

Bryant was asked to analyze the honey produced and served by the White House to determine where the bees are sourcing their pollen. Bryant concluded that the White House honey is classified as a unifloral clover honey, but also contains minor amounts of nectar from other nearby sources, including dogwoods, honeysuckles and magnolia.

Pollen and history

About 70 years ago, before radio-carbon dating, Bryant explained, archaeologists were originally using pollen collected from their artifacts to attempt to confirm the age of their discoveries. Geologists started collecting fossil pollen from deep underground looking for sediment in various strata, dried up lake beds and other geological sites that have repeatedly been shown to be likely sites of oil and gas reserves.

Pollen specialists have been recruited by leading museums and art galleries to authenticate the source of furniture, painting and sculptures.

One of the earliest well-publicized studies was of the microscopic grains of pollen collected from the Shroud of Turin in the mid-70s by botanist and Swiss criminologist Max Frei. Frei’s analysis had identified pollen spores of 58 different plants, many that originated only in and around the site of the crucifixion.

Forensic palynology – the identification of ancient and modern pollen to solve crimes – developed slowly.

One of the earliest cases of using technology to catch a criminal was in 1959, when Austrian police tried to tie a suspect to a man reported missing while on a trip along the Danube River, Bryant said.

The missing man’s body had not been recovered but police believed the suspect had a motive for the crime. Mud found on the suspect’s boots was analyzed by a palynologist from the University of Vienna. He identified several common tree pollens but also a unique fossil grain of hickory — a precise mixture of pollen that was only found in one small area along the Danube. The revelation of this information by police so spooked the suspect that he confessed and showed police where he had buried the body.

Scientific and criminology journals show that detection and identification of pollen has been used in cases ranging from kidnapping, rape, homicide, smuggling, counterfeiting, wildlife violations, terrorism and a litany of other themes in waiting-to-be-written crime novels.

Bryant continues to run his mostly one-person CSI operation but he says the government needs to do more.

“We must get our government to test samples — not just the paperwork on imported honey – but actually look at the honey itself,” he said.

He also believes the government must impose “truth in labeling” for honey.

“Most other countries do this, so why don’t we?” he asked.

“If people were certain they were buying what is on the
label, I suspect they might be willing to pay premium prices. Right now it is a crap shoot.You may or may not get what it says on the label and that’s wrong.”

 

———–

 

See “Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey” at Food Safety News.

Here is a very interesting article from NPR that can be read at this link.

 

What Is It About Bees And Hexagons?

Solved! A bee-buzzing, honey-licking 2,000-year-old mystery that begins here, with this beehive. Look at the honeycomb in the photo and ask yourself: (I know you've been wondering this all your life, but have been too shy to ask out loud ... ) Why is every cell in this honeycomb a hexagon?

honeycomb

iStockphoto.com

Bees, after all, could build honeycombs from rectangles or squares or triangles ...

Bee with triangles and squares

Robert Krulwich/NPR

But for some reason, bees choose hexagons. Always hexagons.

Honeycomb

iStockphoto.com

And not just your basic six-sided hexagon. They like "perfect" hexagons, meaning all six sides are of equal length. They go for the jewelers' version — precise, just so. Why?

Bee with hexagon

Robert Krulwich/NPR

Well, this is a very old question. More than 2,000 years ago, in 36 B.C., a Roman soldier/scholar/writer, Marcus Terentius Varro, proposed an answer, which ever since has been called "The Honeybee Conjecture." Varro thought there might be a deep reason for this bee behavior. Maybe a honeycomb built of hexagons can hold more honey. Maybe hexagons require less building wax. Maybe there's a hidden logic here.

I like this idea — that below the flux, the chaos of everyday life there might be elegant reasons for what we see. "The Honeybee Conjecture" is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature, so here, with help from physicist/writer Alan Lightman, (who recently wrote about this in Orion Magazine) is Varro's hunch.

The Essential Honeycomb

Honeycombs, we all know, store honey. Honey is obviously valuable to bees. It feeds their young. It sustains the hive. It makes the wax that holds the honeycomb together. It takes thousands and thousands of bee hours, tens of thousands of flights across the meadow, to gather nectar from flower after flower after flower, so it's reasonable to suppose that back at the hive, bees want a tight, secure storage structure that is as simple to build as possible.

So how to build it? Well, suppose you start your honeycomb with a cell like this ... a totally random shape, no equal sides, just a squiggle ...

Bee with random shape.

Robert Krulwich/NPR

If you start this way, what will your next cell look like? Well, you don't want big gaps between cells. You want the structure tight. So the next cell will have to be customized to cling to the first, like this ...

Two bees with random shapes

Robert Krulwich/NPR

And the third cell, once again, will have to be designed to fit the first two. Each cell would be a little different, and that means, says Alan Lightman ...

... this method of constructing a honeycomb would require that the worker bees work sequentially, one at a time, first making once cell, then fitting the next cell to that, and so on.

But that's not the bee way. Look at any YouTube version of bees building a honeycomb, says Alan, and you won't see a lot of bees lounging about, waiting for their turn to build a cell. Instead, everybody's working. They do this collectively, simultaneously and constantly.

So a "squiggle cell plan" creates idle bees. It wastes time. For bees to assemble a honeycomb the way bees actually do it, it's simpler for each cell to be exactly the same. If the sides are all equal — "perfectly" hexagonal — every cell fits tight with every other cell. Everybody can pitch in. That way, a honeycomb is basically an easy jigsaw puzzle. All the parts fit.

Bee dreaming

Robert Krulwich/NPR

OK, that explains why honeycomb cells are same-sized. But back to our first question: Why the preference for hexagons? Is there something special about a six-sided shape?

Some shapes you know right away aren't good. A honeycomb built from spheres would have little spaces between each unit ...

Bee on spheres

Robert Krulwich/NPR

... creating gaps that would need extra wax for patching. So you can see why a honeycomb built from spheres wouldn't be ideal. Pentagons, octagons also produce gaps. What's better?

"It is a mathematical truth," Lightman writes, "that there are only three geometrical figures with equal sides that can fit together on a flat surface without leaving gaps: equilateral triangles, squares and hexagons."

Bees in shapes

Robert Krulwich/NPR

So which to choose? The triangle? The square? Or the hexagon? Which one is best? Here's where our Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro made his great contribution. His "conjecture" — and that's what it was, a mathematical guess — proposed that a structure built from hexagons is probably a wee bit more compact than a structure built from squares or triangles. A hexagonal honeycomb, he thought, would have "the smallest total perimeter." He couldn't prove it mathematically, but that's what he thought.

Compactness matters. The more compact your structure, the less wax you need to construct the honeycomb. Wax is expensive. A bee must consume about eight ounces of honey to produce a single ounce of wax. So if you are watching your wax bill, you want the most compact building plan you can find.

And guess what?

Two thousand thirty-five years after Marcus Terentius Varro proposed his conjecture, a mathematician at the University of Michigan, Thomas Hales, solved the riddle. It turns out, Varro was right. A hexagonal structure is indeed more compact. In 1999,Hales produced a mathematical proof that said so.

As the ancient Greeks suspected, as Varro claimed, as bee lovers have always thought, as Charles Darwin himself once wrote, the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is "absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax."

The bees, presumably, shrugged. As Alan Lightman says, "They knew it was true all along."

Dan Rather took a closer look at Colony Collapse Disorder.  In the report, he speaks of the importance of bees, and how bekeepers around the world are reporting loosing up to 30-60% of hives per year!  The EPA, who has approved the use of neoicotinoid pesticides has nothing to do with the testing of the chemicals.  They allow the companies that make them such as Bayer to provide their own research.  It is a great watch, and I highly recommend it.

Bee Aware from Greg Stanley on Vimeo.

Watch and spread!

How can a creature as tiny as a bee, whose brain is proportionally smaller than that of a bird, manage to control its flight and avoid obstacles both in flight and on the ground? We now know that bee sensory-motor performance depends on a nervous system consisting of a hundred thousand to a million neurons. As the insect flies, an image of its environment moves from the front to the back of its visual field, creating an optic flow, which is defined as the angular speed of environmental contrasts passing though its visual field. By definition, these optic flows depend on the relationship between speed and distance from the nearest surfaces.

The researchers already developed a honeybee flight simulation model, called ALIS, last year. ALIS can reproduce insect trajectories primarily using computer-processed visual data (the objects that are present and their movements). These biorobotics specialists then built a flight chamber, with a complex geometric shape, that foraging bees slowly learned to cross to reach a reward of sugar water. This flight chamber had several constrictions where the floor and ceiling, or the side walls, converged. The researchers observed that a bee's speed decreased in proportion to the narrowest point of passage in the flight chamber, whether the constriction was horizontal or vertical. In other words, a bee slows its flight speed as an obstacle gets closer. Its speed depends on the size of the visual field and, therefore, on the closeness of the obstacle. This behaviour was well predicted by the ALIS model simulation: the trajectories of bees flying in the flight chamber corresponded perfectly to the trajectories predicted by virtual insect modeling.

The scientists point to the existence of controllers that maintain the optical flows, i.e., visually-perceived speed/distance, at constant values. Thus, if the insect is flying in an environment that is becoming increasingly crowded, this "cruise control" forces it to reduce its speed in order to maintain constant speed/distance. An "optic flow regulator" model makes it possible to understand how a bee is able to fly without ever needing to measure its speed or its position from the walls and how it can do without traditional aerospace sensors, like Doppler radars, that give speed in relation to the ground. These ultra-precise sensors have the disadvantage of being bulky, expensive and power consuming. The present research illustrates the dual challenge of biorobotics, both in fundamental and applied research. These findings could have aerospace applications, such as during the crucial phases when aircraft fly in confined environments.

More information: Honeybees' speed depends on dorsal as well as lateral, ventral and frontal optic flows. G. Portelli, et al. PLoS One, 12 mai 2011.