Educational Guide

Organic Honey

Some people have the opinion that all honey available in the market is natural and obtained from the wild. Others feel that during its production carried out on chemically sprayed farms it cannot get contaminated with the pesticides sprayed on the crops and weeds.

However, the truth is that the bees may also get affected by the extensive pesticide usage which goes on in the chemically treated farms. The issue is so severe that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, warned Barack Obama in May 2013 that if the excessive control of pesticides is not reduced, it could lead to a globally volatile situation as the bee population throughout the world becomes more and more affected. If pesticides can kill the bees, how can they not affect the honey produced by these bees? Moreover, non-organic production involves extensive usage of antibiotics for disease control. It should also be noted that so far, there is no “scientific” proof that organic honey is healthier than non-organic. Then why should you eat organic honey? Well, many people prefer to be cautious. Most of our decisions are based on our beliefs and conscience. Since organic production involves following stringent guidelines, people feel secure when they eat organic honey as compared to when they eat non-organic. Given below are some of the ways in which pesticide and antibiotic contamination of honey can take place:

Contamination of Pesticides in Honey
Honey can be contaminated with the pesticides sprayed on crops through one or more of the following ways:

-In some cases, when the plants and weeds containing flowers have been sprayed with pesticides, the bees are poisoned with pesticides.
-At times, the pesticide is sprayed on the bees directly.
-In many cases, the bees collect nectar and pollen that has been contaminated with pesticides.
-When pesticides are sprayed, part of the amount is accumulated in water on or near the plants. When the bees drink this water, they are also contaminated.
-On some occasions, the pesticide gets sprayed on the bee hives or gets transported to it from the sprayed plants.

Residues of Antibiotics
Conventional the bees are given large doses of antibiotics to help protect them from diseases, but unfortunately, the honey also becomes contaminated with these antibiotics. In 2002, samples of Chinese honey were tested for the presence of antibiotics in Europe. Several samples were found to contain traces of antibiotics, which led to a ban on imports of Chinese honey in Europe. The ban was later removed in 2004 due to improvements in Chinese veterinary standards and imports of honey from China were resumed.

What leads to this antibiotics contamination? Unlike organic production, conventional honey production does not involve stringent guidelines for the quantity and mode of transmission of antibiotics to the bees. As a result, apiculturists have a free hand when using these antibiotics. When farmers use excessive quantities of antibiotics the chance of contamination increases. What is the problem with residues of antibiotics being found in honey? The antibiotics given to the bees are veterinary antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, streptomycin and sulfonamides. Large doses of chloramphenicol administered into the human beings may cause cancer and aplastic anemia. Similarly, high doses of streptomycin and sulfonamides are harmful to the human body. Many countries have not banned the usage of these harmful drugs in apiculture. The EU has banned all three while the US has thus far only banned chloramphenicol.