stingless bees yucatan A beekeeper with a log hive of stingless bees in Yucatán.

European GM concerns threaten Mexico honey exports

Although Mexicans consume no more than two teaspoons of honey per capita each year, this country is the world’s third largest exporter and sixth largest producer. But there are concerns that Mexico’s exports of organic honey could be under threat because of the presence of pollen from genetically-modified (GM) plants.

Europe buys 85% of the production, but there are strict controls over GM content. If the source of the pollen is GM plants that are not intended for human consumption, shipments can be rejected or producers can expect to receive a lower price.

Testing by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute found soy pollen in six honey samples from nine hives in the Campeche region. But the honey ought to pass the European tests, according to a senior scientist at the institute.

“As far as we could determine, every kind of GMO soybean grown in Campeche is approved for human consumption.” But he cautioned that importers don’t always do the analysis necessary to match pollen grains with the source.

Much of the honey production is carried out by small producers, many of whom are in isolated areas, and their product is free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Honey bees were highly valued by the Maya, both for the wax and the honey. The bees themselves were of a species that had no stinger and they were regarded as pets. Their log hives were a common feature in and around Mayan homes.

But the Africanized honey bee, which arrived with the Europeans, is displacing the stingless bees of the Maya, which produce smaller amounts.

Mexico’s honey exports total about 30,000 tonnes annually, and are worth US $86 million. But if exports suffer as a result of fears over GM pollen content, Mexicans might want to start eating more of it themselves.

Source: Televisa (esp)

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