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.

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!

Wales honey bees decline 39 per cent
21/1/2010
The plight of the honey bee has been highlighted by Pembrokeshire County Council.

Honey bee populations in Britain have declined at an alarming rate over the past decade with a 39% decline in Welsh bee colonies in 2009.

This week the Council's environment and overview scrutiny committee heard presentations about the situation from two leading bee experts.

John Verran, Regional Bee Inspector for Wales and John Dudman, Secretary of the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association told members about the drastic decline in honey bee colonies, the causes and what authorities and bee keepers were trying to do about it.

The meeting was attended by many local members of the Women's Institute, which has made the plight of the honey bee one of its national causes.

Chairman of the Committee, Councillor Peter Stock said he was very concerned to hear about the decline.

"This is a very important issue and something which I believe as a Council we should take up," he said.

"The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committeee has put this matter into its work programme and potential further scrutiny can now take place.

"This meeting is a start but I think - working with others - we should play our part in trying to ensure the success of honey bee populations in the future."

Earlier the meeting heard John Dudman explain how although bee colonies traditionally declined by around 5% to 10% a year, they had fallen by 34% in Wales 2008 and by 39% last year. Populations in England had declined by similar amounts.

He said although there was no obvious cause, one major factor was believed to be an increase in the incidence of varroa mite infestations in hives and there were also concern about the effects of pesticide spraying on crops and in gardens.

He said DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government had last year published a plan to improve the health of honey bees, while an additional £4.3m was being spent by the Government to gather more information and undertake more research into pollinating inspects.

"At a more local level we as an association are providing training courses for beginners and also setting up more local beekeeping groups," he said.

"Bee keepers need education and they need to be given information. The education and training of bee keepers is essential."

Source: Oldham Chronicle, UK
Reporter: Janice Barker
Date online: 23/07/2009
Oldham Euro-MP Chris Davies has a bee in his bonnet about the endangered insects.

He used his first question of the new term at the European Parliament to highlight the alarming decline of British bees.

In the last two years bee numbers have dropped by around 30 per cent and the Government recently announced funding of around £2 million to study the decline.

Liberal Democrat Mr Davies wants the European Commission to consider banning insecticides called neonicotinoids, used to protect plants from insects. Its use has been linked to bees dying, and led to severe restrictions in France and Germany. Mr Davies said: “The Commission needs to consider a ban on these chemicals before the bee decline starts showing up in food shortages.

“Better to take action now as a precaution than risk the destruction of bee colonies because we left it too late.

“Protecting the environment isn’t just about the big visible changes like the melting ice in Greenland or the pollution in our atmosphere, it’s also about protecting the tiny creatures who keep our plants growing and our world running.”

Bees are believed to contribute £120 million per year in direct economic benefits to Britain by pollinating commercial crops.

About a third of food comes from plants pollinated by them. Scientists are trying to discover the reasons why bees have been disappearing in large numbers. Many studies focus on the varroa mite parasite that weakens colonies by feeding on bees.

Neonicotinoids are less studied despite evidence from Germany and France in particular that they can cause bee colony numbers to collapse.

1

SOURCE: Friday, 9 August, 2002, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK   BBC News

Fungi help combat honeybee killer

Varroa Mite
Varroa Mite
Varroa mites have devastated some honeybee colonies

Fungi could soon be helping beekeepers control a parasitic mite that before now has killed up to 70% of colonies.Research shows that the fungi can kill Varroajust as effectively as the chemicals currently used to keep populations of the parasite manageable.

The fungi could prove key to protecting hives as the mites become resistant to chemical controls currently used to treat them.

But it could be some years before beekeepers can buy the fungal controls off the shelf for use in hives.

Killer parasite

The Varroa destructor mite was first found in the UK in 1992 and has wrought havoc on feral and hive populations.

    

 Chemicals are very efficient and cheap but the downside is that their use is not sustainable in the long term
David Chandler, HRI Association

 

Some beekeepers lost almost 75% of their colonies to the mite that preys on young bees weakening them, and making them susceptible to other infections.

Pesticides have helped keep the mites populations at low levels but some fear that colonies are about to undergo another wave of devastation as mites become resistant to the pyrethroids used to kill them.

Overuse of the chemicals has produced populations of resistant mites in hives in the South West of England and the resilient strain is expected to spread across the country.

But research carried out by Dr David Chandler and Dr Gill Davidson at the Horticulture Research International Association in Warwickshire has found that insect-killing fungi could take over the job of controlling the mites.

"Fungal controls have a long history since Pasteur," said Dr Chandler, "but interest is increasing because of public concern over the environmental impact of pesticide residues in food."

Good bugs

By contrast with chemical pesticides the fungi tested by the scientists are found in nature, are harmless to mammals, including humans, and leave no residue to accumulate in food.

    

Bee Larva with mites
Bee Larva with mites
Varroa attacks bees at all stages of their life

 

Testing by the researchers has identified more than 40 types of fungi from six species that are capable of killing theVarroa mites within 100 hours.

"Using living organisms to control other living organisms is a different form of pest control," said Dr Chandler. "Chemicals are very efficient and cheap but the downside is that their use is not sustainable in the long term."

Although the fungi occur naturally the mites rarely encountered them inside hives because honeybees kept their homes so clean, he said.

The promising fungal types are now being tested to ensure they are as effective in the high temperatures and humidity levels found in bee hives.

Dr Chandler said the aim was not to eliminate the Varroa mite, but to ensure that populations were kept to very low levels.

    

Dead Varroa Mite
Dead Varroa Mite
Fungi overwhelm Varroa mites

 

The fact that the fungal controls killsVarroa by different methods could mean that the mites never develop the kind of resistance that is making pesticides less effective.

The fungi spores kill the mites over a week long period by penetrating their cuticle and poisoning the bug, drying it out and damaging its cells and organs.

The two researchers are now embarking on a three-year project with the IACR-Bee Research Unit in Rothamstead to identify the best strains of fungi and find the best way to distribute them around a hive.

Dr Chandler said that honey bees were already used to spread fungi on some commercial crops so it might prove easy to adapt these methods to spread the anti-Varroafungi inside hives.

One idea is to use a fungi footbath that bees have to walk through when entering the hive to help them spread the spores around when they deliver nectar and pollen.

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Press Release, Sept 19, 2008
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)

Italy bans Pesticides linked to Bee Devastation

Neonicotinoids now suspended in four European countries

The Italian government banned the use of several neonicotinoid pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The Ministero del Lavoro della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali issued an immediate suspension of the seed treatment products clothianidin, imidacloprid, fipronil and thiamethoxam used in rapeseed oil, sunflowers and sweetcorn. The Italian government will start a monitoring program to further investigate the reasons of recent bee deaths.

Italy followed Germany and Slovenia which banned sales of clothianidin and imidacloprid in May. In France imidacloprid has been banned on sunflowers already since 1999. In 2003 the substance was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment. Bayer´s application for clothianidin was rejected by French authorities.

The two substances are produced by the German company Bayer CropScience and generated €800 million in 2007. Imidacloprid is Bayer´s best-selling pesticide.

In August the German Coalition against Bayer Dangers brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, for marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world. The charge was introduced in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year.

Harro Schultze, attorney of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers said: “The Public Prosecutor needs to clarify which efforts Bayer undertook to prevent a ban of imidacloprid and clothianidin in Germany after sales of both substances were stopped in France. We´re suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants”.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic chemicals that work their way through the plant and attack the nervous system of any insect it comes into contact with. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The Press Release of the Italian Government: www.ministerosalute.it (top right: “Tutela patrimonio apistico: sospensione cautelativa dei prodotti fitosanitari utilizzati nel trattamento di concia delle sementi”)

Sep 19, 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh)

Italy is latest to ban sale of Bayer pesticide

Pesticides made by Bayer CropScience have been banned in a third European country after the chemicals were linked to bee deaths.

Italy this week followed Germany and Slovenia in banning sales of chemicals used to coat crop seeds, including clothianidin and imidecloprid, according to a statement by the Italian health ministry and the German consumer watchdog group, Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. Both pesticides are made and sold by Bayer CropScience, a German company that has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

Beekeepers in the three countries blame the pesticides for killing large numbers of honeybees. Clothianidin and related pesticides generated about $1 billion of Bayer CropScience's $8.6 billion in global sales last year.  Sabine Vollmer, Staff Writer

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Press Release, August 25, 2008
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)

Pesticides cause mass death of bees
Germany: Charge against Bayer´s Board of Management

The German Coalition against Bayer Dangers today brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany). The group accuses Bayer of marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world. The Coalition introduced the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year.

Since 1991 Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, which is one of the best selling insecticides in the world, often used as seed-dressing for maize, sunflower, and rape. Bayer exports Imidacloprid to more than 120 countries and the substance is Bayer´s best-selling pesticide. Since patent protection for Imidacloprid expired in most countries, Bayer in 2003 brought a similarly functionning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The beginning of the marketing of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin coincided with the occurrence of large scale bee deaths in many European and American countries. Up to 70 per cent of all hives have been affected. In France alone approximately 90 billion bees died within ten years, reducing honey production by up to 60%.

Harro Schultze, attorney of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers said: “The Public Prosecutor needs to clarify which efforts BAYER undertook to prevent a ban of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin after sales of both substances were stopped in France. We´re suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants”. In France Imidacloprid has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers since 1999 and in 2003 was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment. The Comité Scientifique et Technique, convened by the French government, declared that the treatment of seeds with Imidacloprid leads to significant risks for bees. Bayer´s application for Clothianidin was also rejected by French authorities.

“Bayer´s Board of Management has to be called to account since the risks of neonicotinoids such as Imidacloprid and Clothianidin have now been known for more than ten years. With an annual turnover of nearly 800 million Euro neonicotinoids are among Bayer´s most important products. This is the reason why Bayer, despite serious environmental damage, is fighting against any application prohibitions”, says Philipp Mimkes, speaker of the Coalition against Bayer-dangers. The Coalition demands that Bayer withdraw all neonicotinoids from the market worldwide.

The accusation of flawed studies is confirmed by the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) which judged on Bayer´s Clothianidin application: “All of the field/semi-field studies, however, were found to be deficient in design and conduct of the studies and were, therefore, considered as supplemental information only. Clothianidin may pose a risk to honey bees and other pollinators, if exposure occurs via pollen and nectar of crop plants grown from treated seeds”. PRMA adds: “It should also be noted that Clothianidin is very persistent in soil, with high carry-over of residues to the next growing season. Clothianidin is also mobile in soil.”

In May 2008 German authorities blamed clothianidin for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products, including Clothianidin and Imidacloprid, on maize and rape.

The case is filed by the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (Tel: +49-(0)761 2050) under the file number 520 UJs 1649/08

more information:
· The Guardian: Germany bans chemicals linked to bee devastation www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/23/wildlife.endangeredspecies
· Sierra Club urges EPA to suspend nicotinyl insecticides: http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2008-07-30.asp
· Press Release of the Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (German): http://www.jki.bund.de/cln_044/nn_813794/DE/pressestelle/Presseinfos/2008/1605__BienensterbenClothianidin.html__nnn=true
· Bee-keepers and environmental groups demand prohibition of pesticide "Gaucho"
· French Institutes Finds Imidaproclid Turning Up in Wide Range of Crops
· 2003 report from the "Comité Scientifique et Technique de l’Etude Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles" http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapportfin.pdf