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Honey Production and Climate Change

Summarized from a recent NY Times article…

From a report from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, on the conclusion of a month’s long study of the earth’s climate, comes this, compiled by hundreds of scholars and approved by 195 countries.

“There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

The final conclusion is that the continued use of fossil fuels is harming all of us, and harming some of us a lot more.

But it does offer some options to adapt to a hotter world and some on preventing it from getting too hot. What we do during this decade, they said, will largely determine what happens for the next few centuries.

Where we are isn’t the same for everybody however. Only 10% or so of the households in the whole world are responsible for between 30% – 45% of greenhouse emissions. What’s worse, for the most part, those who have made the least of this mess are the same folks who are getting the worst of what’s happening. More on this later.

I’m going to wander a bit to see what this may mean to the US bee industry right now, specifically honey production in the US, and imported honey in the US and EU.

The honey produced in the US during 2022 came to about 125.3 million pounds from 2.67 million colonies. That’s down a million pounds from 2021, although the colonies were about even. What’s of note here is that 26% of all the colonies in the US made their honey in North Dakota. Combined, the next three most productive states in the US equaled the number of colonies in North Dakota last year, and combined, the top four states in the US - ND, CA TX and MT, made half of the honey produced in the US last year.

I point this out because a lot rests on one small piece of our geography that is seeing some climate abnormalities this season, and, well, what about next year? And more importantly, can or should anything be done sooner rather than later to make sure this stays the way it is?

At the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a recent report showed data from a sampling assignment carried out in 2021 and 2022 to test imported honey for economically motivated adulteration (EMA). EMA occurs, for example, when someone intentionally leaves out, takes out, or substitutes a valuable ingredient or part of a food or when a substance is added to a food to make it appear better or of greater value. The sampling was designed to identify products that contained less expensive undeclared added sweeteners, such as syrups from cane and corn.

The agency collected and tested 144 samples of imported honey from bulk and retail shipments from 32 countries. The FDA found 14 samples (10%) to be violative. The agency refused entry of violative shipments into the U.S. and placed the associated company and product on an import alert.

The countries found to export to the US violated honey in this sample included –

  • The Dominican Republic (2 of 2, retail)

  • Greece (1 of 4, retail)

  • India (2 of 28, bulk)

  • Italy (1 of 4, retail)

  • Lebanon (1 of 1, retail)

  • Thailand (1 of 3, retail)

  • Vietnam (3 of 28, bulk)

  • Yemen (5 of 5, retail)

Meanwhile, adulteration of honey with cheap sugar syrup has been exposed in a new investigation by the European Commission, which found 46% of 320 sampled products were suspected to be fraudulent. Ten honey samples from the UK all failed the tests. They may have been blended or packaged in Britain, but the honey probably originated overseas.

Studies suggest that economically motivated adulteration of honey is somewhat prevalent, with findings of 13% in Canada and 14% in the European Union, respectively, in recent years. More than 70% of the honey consumed in the U.S. is imported. Given these data, the FDA conducted this assignment to better understand the extent of economically motivated adulteration among imported honey and to identify violative products and prevent them from being distributed in the U.S. market.

Another finding for the 2022 honey crop consumption in the US was that per capita consumption was down from the previous year to 1.14 pounds per person, the lowest in the past 12 years.

I lay this groundwork to get a feel for honey that is coming from wherever to the US, how much is made here, and how much is consumed in a year by the US. Knowing where a product is coming from can help prevent shortages on US shelves if that location is going to be, or already is negatively affected by climate change, and knowing what may prevent it from coming here, what may be done to make sure it keeps showing up is a critical part of the US beekeeping industry.

Now I appreciate that in recent years US beekeepers have shifted some in what they are using their bees to produce. For many now it is produce more bees to replace those lost to a variety of causes, and to keep as many colonies as possible to be able to pollinate the food crops grown in the US. It ain’t so much honey any more as it is bees and crops.

These are just some of what Climate Change and Beekeeping pieces will cover. Stay tuned.

Now tell me, over and over and over again, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…..

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