Honey's Not GMO

pure natural honey

Pure natural honey is, by definition, a non-GMO food.  It’s that simple.

By: Michelle Poulk

This message is supported by the American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Packer & Dealers Association, Sioux Honey Association and the Western States Packers & Dealers Association.  As a collective group, these organizations represent approximately 95% of the entire United States Honey Industry.

Today’s consumers rely on many sources for information on their diet and food choices. Perhaps the most frequently consulted, but least reliable, source is the internet – where everyone can be an ‘expert’ on their chosen subject.  Gluten-free, raw, local, vegetarian and non-GMO are currently among the food topics most often discussed.

Regarding a non-GMO diet, some of the main questions being asked of the honey industry are:

“Is honey free of GMOs?”

Answer: The FDA discourages the use of the term “GMO Free” because all food items may contain trace amounts of GMOs. The European Union, Australia and other countries have established thresholds for their GMO labeling laws. The regulations require all food items which contain more than 0.9% GMOs to declare GMO contents on the labels. Honey is not required to be identified or labeled as a non-GMO food because GMO’s in honey never exceed this threshold. Honey, as most other foods, may not be completely GMO free, but it is a non-GMO food according to the standards established by the European Union, Australia and other countries.

“I am on a non-GMO diet. Can I eat honey?” 

Answer: Pure honey can be introduced into a non-GMO diet and not only will you maintain your personal nutritional choices, but you will receive all the wonderful benefits honey has to offer.

“If honey is not Certified as non-GMO, does that mean it may contain GMOs?

Answer: Although some interest groups and organizations appear to complicate the issue, the simple truth is this: honey qualifies as a non-GMO food.  It does not require any type of certification in order to be classified as a non-GMO food item.  Some companies choose to have their honey certified as “non-GMO” by independent organizations, but in terms of GMO content, honey certified as non-GMO is not superior to any other non-certified pure honey.

“Can trace GMOs be eliminated from honey by monitoring bee forage areas?”

Answer:  It is not realistically possible to monitor all honey bee forage areas, or to create a GMO-free forage zone. Even if a GMO-free zone were to be established, bees can travel great distances, and neighboring bees could enter the GMO-free zone and distribute pollen containing GMOs onto non-GMO crops.

To better understand the basics of GMOs, here are the FDA definitions on the subject:

“Genetic modification” is defined as the alteration of the genotype of a plant using any technique, new or traditional. “Modification“ refers to the alteration in the composition of food that results from adding, deleting, or changing hereditary traits, irrespective of the method.

This definition is provided by an independent certification organization:

“GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”

So how are these definitions applicable to Honey?

Honey is a food produced by bees from the nectar of plants.  Honey is not a plant and there are no known species of genetically engineered (GE) honey bees.  The definitions support honey’s established status as a non-GMO food item.

Here are just a few of the facts about honey as a non-GMO food:

No genetically modified honey bees exist

Honey is made by bees from the nectar of plants

Honey is not a food that has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory

The amount of pollen in honey ranges from about 0.1% to 0.4%

On average, pollen in honey contains about 0.2% protein.  GMO markers may be found only in the protein

Any trace of GMO’s in honey, therefore, will fall far below the 0.9% threshold established by countries around the world as requiring GMO labeling

In the US, there are no current national GMO labeling requirements.  Moreover, the state of Vermont enacted legislation in 2016, which clearly excludes foods from any GMO labeling requirement when the food is “consisting of or derived entirely from an animal that is itself not produced with genetic engineering, regardless of whether the animal has been fed or injected with any food, drug, or other substance produced with genetic engineering”.

Honey bees, beekeepers and the honey industry are direct contributors to the success of American and world agriculture.  In today’s world, the honey industry faces many problems such as hive loss, drought, colony collapse and shrinking forage areas.  Fortunately, honey’s position as a pure and natural food is unchallenged.

Produced by bees from the nectar of plants, honey is a non-GMO food, the purest of nature’s sweets.

(The above article by Michelle Poulk appeared in Bee Culture - The Magazine of American Beekeeping on August 23, 2016.)

References: 

http://www.honey.com/faq/

http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm059098.htm

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20140110IPR32407/html/Parliament-clarifies-labelling-rules-for-honey-if-contaminated-by-GM-pollen

http://www.honey.com/images/uploads/general/Australian_2004_Canola_pollen_study.pdf

http://www.ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/PressReleases/Consumer/Final%20Rule%20CP%20121.pdf

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Bill's Bees - Protecting Our Honey Bees From Fire

Bill's Bees Protecting our Honey Bees From Fires

California's severe drought has caused devastating fire conditions throughout the state; destroying homes, wildlife, and honey bees. On Friday evening (July 22nd) we were able to rescue our bees just in time. We moved two of our apiaries (140 hives) from above Dillon Divide. This is what it looked like when we moved out of the hills before the fire went through the canyon. It was hot as a furnace. By the time we had the bees loaded that fire was halfway down the hill. The wind was blowing and it was snowing white ash when we got the truck out of there. We brought our bees home to Little Tujunga Canyon where we pray they remain safe. We hope we never have to do this again.

We would like to thank everyone for your concern, best wishes, offers of help, and prayers this weekend.

Bee safe.
Bill and Clyde
Bill's Bees

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Bees in Boxes: How Did They Get In There?

Bill's Bees A three-pound package of bees"In a little over a month from now you'll be picking up your bees. Here's some helpful tips from the American Honey Queen - Buzzing Across America blog on what to do when you get YOUR BEES home! ~ Bill Lewis, Bill's Bees 

You may have seen beehives near orchards or along fields in your area, but how did the honeybees get in there? Let’s take a look at how bees arrive in the spring and how they are transferred into the hive. 

After a beekeeper has pre-ordered their honeybees for the year, they will get a phone call in spring saying the bees have arrived. They drive to the bee supply store to pick up their packages of honeybees. The packages are small wooden boxes with wire mesh on the sides and a can of sugar syrup hanging from the top. Depending on what size package the beekeeper ordered, there are either two pounds or three pounds of bees in the package. There are approximately 10,000 bees in a three-pound package, plus one queen bee in her own cage. This queen has recently been introduced to the bees in the package, which means they all need a few days to get to know each other. By the time the package arrives, all the bees have become accustomed to one another.



When the beekeeper gets the package of bees home, it is time to install it in the hive they have prepared. This is usually one deep hive body with frames inside. A deep hive body is the biggest box we can use for a hive. Frames are wooden frames with a sheet of beeswax or plastic with the honeycomb pattern molded into it, which offers a building guide for the bees to create wax honeycomb. Just like other types of farmers, different beekeepers might have different ways they take care of their animals. Here is one method to install the package of bees in the hive.

 Bill's Bees Deep Hive BodyBill's Bees shaking bees into the hive

First, remove a few frames from the middle of the hive and set them aside. Remove the can of sugar syrup from the package. This can is usually empty because the bees were hungry on their truck ride to their destination! Slide the queen’s cage out of the package, make sure she is alive, and tuck her in your pocket for now. Pick up the package of honeybees, flip it over quickly, and start shaking the bees out into the middle of the box. The package can be tilted from side to side to help the bees shake out through the circular hole. Once almost all of them are out, set the package down near the hive. If there are still a few bees left inside, the package can be left near the hive until they find their way out.

Bill's Bees queen in a her cageNext, gently return the frames to the hive. Be careful as you lower them into the box, making sure you are softly spreading the bees out and not squishing them. Once all the frames are back in the box, it’s time to release our queen! One way to release the queen is called direct release, meaning she will leave her cage immediately. Using the hive tool, the staple holding the wire mesh on the queen’s cage is removed. The wire mesh is held down with a finger until we are ready to release her. Lower the queen cage as deep as possible in the hive between two frames, then pull back the wire mesh from the front of the cage. Keep a close eye on the queen to make sure she walks out onto the frame and does not try to escape!

Put the inner cover on the hive. Many beekeepers will offer the bees sugar syrup after they first arrive to ensure they have a close source of food, especially if not many flowers are blooming and producing nectar. This is simply one part water and one part sugar mixed in a bucket. The bucket has tiny holes drilled in the lid, so when it is flipped upside-down the bucket will not leak continuously. This bucket feeder is placed partially over the hole in the inner cover. A medium box is placed around the feeder to protect it from weather, and the outer cover is placed on top of that.

Bill's Bees started building comb 

At this point, our bees have been removed from their package and transferred to their new home. Once they find the food and are comfortable with their surroundings, they will get to work!

Thank you to 

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How the Honey Bee Crisis is Affecting California's Almond Growers

"I read the following article and attended this meeting. I thought it was a good informative meeting. It was great to hear from some of the top researchers investigating bee problems. I really appreciate their taking time out of their busy schedules to share with us. Yes, in 2014 President Obama put out a Presidential Memorandum instructing  federal agencies to create a national strategy to promote the heath of honey bees and other pollinators. A lot of work is being done. However, to my knowledge, there was never any budget set aside to fund this effort. Dr. Jeff Pettis said it best. "You need to talk to some of the people down in Washington, D.C., and get a few more of us out in the field that care about the industry," and fund this effort." ~ Bill Lewis, Owner, Bill's Bees Inc.

Los Angeles Times
February 26, 2016
By Robin Abcarian

How the Honey Bee Crisis is Affecting California's Almond Growers

The last of the evening light had disappeared, stealing the incandescence from a million pink and white almond blossoms. Inside the modest conference room of a research facility once operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the South Valley Bee Club convened its regular meeting.

More people than usual — 51 — turned up Tuesday. A sprinkling were out-of-staters, part of a huge migration of keepers and their bees who trek to California each year from as far as Florida and New Jersey for what has been called the planet's largest "managed pollination" event.

Without bees, there can be no almonds. In fact, each of California's nearly 1 million acres of almond orchards requires two hives. But California beekeepers have only a quarter of the needed hives.

As almond acreage has exploded and bees have been in some kind of crazy death spiral, growers have been in a mild state of panic over where to find enough little pollinators.

As a result, they are willing to pay dearly — up to $180 to rent one hive for a couple of weeks.

"None of us wants to get into the bee business," said Los Banos almond grower Joe Del Bosque, whose bee budget is $250,000 this year. "Bees are livestock. It's like owning a dairy. A lot of work."

Hence, the annual bee migration.

"We're the whores of agriculture," said Dave Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania beekeeper, who rents his hives on a national circuit, starting with almonds in February, ending with Brazilian peppers in Florida in the winter.

After the bee people finished their barbecue dinner, they turned their attention to two of the world's leading bee researchers.

David De Jong has studied bees in Brazil for more than 35 years, and is an expert on a particular mite that plagues bee colonies. Jeff Pettis of the USDA's Bee Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., has been instrumental in determining why bee colonies are in such steep decline. 

Bottom line: There's no single cause for the weakening or untimely demise of the tiny creatures that make the almond harvest possible. The idea of a mysterious "colony collapse disorder" has seized the public imagination — who among us does not love bees, or at least the idea of bees? — but it's mostly a misnomer.

Bee failure has multiple, probably interlocking causes, many of which are still poorly understood. Bees are vulnerable to pesticides and pests such as the varroa mite, fungicides and fungus, and a host of viruses that cause them to fly slowly, or act demented or die prematurely.

Pettis has looked at the effect of high and low temperature spikes on queens during transportation, and drone sperm motility issues.

What else hurts bees? "Cellphones," joked one beekeeper. "Aliens," said another.

Finally, Jack Brumley, a Porterville-area beekeeper with 40 years of experience, could take it no longer.

"We've been talking about this problem for what, 10 years?" said Brumley, 72, who told me he lost more than half of his 9,000 hives this year. "How many more academic papers do we have to pay for? How many more PhDs do we have to educate before we get some information that I can take home and use?"

Knowing laughter rippled through the room.

"Don't bark at me," Pettis said. "You need to talk to some of the people down in Washington, D.C., and get a few more of us out in the field that care about the industry."

In 2014, President Obama, acknowledging the critical state of bee colony health, ordered the creation of a national strategy "to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators." The goal is to reduce honey bee colony losses to no more than 15% within a decade.

Needless to say, people in this room aren't holding their breath.

On Wednesday morning, on the edge of a fragrant almond orchard south of Bakersfield, I donned a rather fetching white bee suit and joined two University of Maryland entomology students collecting bees for testing by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Kneeling on the ground, Nathalie Steinhauer, a doctoral student, stuffed pine needles into a baffled smoker, lit them, then gently puffed smoke into square wooden hives to calm the bees, which, to put it mildly, can get agitated when disturbed.

I had learned this the hard way a few days earlier, when I visited one of Del Bosque's orchards in Firebaugh, north of Fresno, with his longtime beekeeper, Rosemary Grissom. As I approached a hive to shoot some photos, Grissom ordered me to back away from it quickly but calmly.

I was wearing black, a color that displeases bees because it makes them think bears, their natural enemies, are coming for their honey. I didn't move quite fast enough.

Let's just say I now have a visceral understanding of what it means to have a "bee in your bonnet." There is no mistaking the sound of an angry bee, especially when it's stuck in your hair.

Steinhauer's colleague, Meghan McConnell, a master's student, gently pried frames from their hives. Each frame was covered in thousands of cells, filled with honey, or pollen, or larvae or pupae. Being careful to avoid hurting the queen bee, who is essential, McConnell shook each frame into a pan, then scooped up a quarter-cup of bees into a live-bee box or a jar of alcohol.

Back in the lab, the live bees will be tested for viruses; the dead ones for pests. With a narrow stick, she painstakingly collected pollen to test for pesticides.

"Look here," McConnell said. "You can see two babies being born."

In a corner of the frame's spectacular swirl of brown, orange and yellow, two new bees poked their teensy heads out of hexagonal cells.

In a day, they'll be at work in the almond blossoms. In a few weeks or so, they'll be dead. In a perfect world, the hive would live on, ad infinitum. These days, survival is always in doubt.

Anyway, next time you pop a handful of almonds, thank a bee.

http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-bees-almonds-20160226-column.html

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