Benefits of Organic Honey
Some people have the opinion that all honey available in the market is natural honey obtained from the wild. Others feel that honey production carried out on chemically sprayed farms cannnot get contaminated with the pesticides sprayed on the crops and weeds.
However, the truth is that honey bees may also get affected by the extensive pesticide usage which goes on the chemically treated farms. Moreover, non-organic honey production involves extensive usage of antibiotics for disease control. It should be noted that so far, there is no proof that organic honey is healthier than non-organic honey.
Then why should one eat organic honey? People prefer to be cautious. Most of our decisions are based on our beliefs and conscience. Since organic honey production involves following stringent guidelines, people feel secure when they eat organic honey as compared to when they eat non-organic honey.
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 honey bees are poisoned with pesticides.
- At times, the pesticide gets sprayed on the honey bees directly.
- In many occasions, honey bees collect nectar and pollen that is contaminated with pesticides.
- When pesticides are sprayed, part of it gets accumulated in water on or near the plants. When honey bees drink this water, they are also contaminated.
- In few occasions, the pesticide gets sprayed on the honey bee hives or gets transported to it from the sprayed plants.
Residues of Antibiotics in Honey
Conventional honey bees are given large doses of antibiotics to help them protect from diseases. Unfortunately, the honey also gets 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 the 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 honey production, conventional honey production does not involve stringent guidelines for the quantity and mode of transmission of antibiotics to the honey bees. As a result, apiculturists have a free hand in 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 honey bees are veterinary antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, streptomycin and sulfonamides. Large doses of chloramphenicol administered into the human beings may cause cancer and aplastic anaemia. 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 banned chloramphenicol.
Ban on Imports of Chinese Honey: BBC reported the ban on imports of Chinese honey in 2002.
EU lifts ban on Chinese Honey: BBC reported the lifting of ban on imports of Chinese honey in 2004.
Detection of Antibiotics in Honey: Food Solutions China describes various methods for detection of antibiotics in honey.
Pesticides in Honey: NSW, Australia provides ways of reducing pesticide contamination of honey bees.