• GMO Soybean Pollen: EU Rejects Mexican Honey

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    Using precise pollen species determination by conventional microscopic methods, accompanied by molecular genetic markers, we found bees collect GMO (genetically modified) soybean pollen and incorporate it in Yucatan honey. Honey comb samples from Las Flores, Campeche, Mexico, often contained soybean pollen. Pollen in honey was analyzed in nine samples; six contained substantial soy pollen and two tested positive for soybean GMO. Our analyses confirm field observations that honey bees, Apis mellifera, gather soybean pollen and nectar. The resultant risk for honey production in the Yucatán Peninsula and Mexico is evident in wholesale price reduction of 12% when GMO products are detected and honey consignments are rejected. Although this affects only 1% of current export honey (2011–2013) GMO soybean is an unacknowledged threat to apiculture and its economics in one of the world's foremost honey producing areas.

    Mexico is the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world. A Smithsonian researcher and colleagues helped rural farmers in Mexico to quantify the genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples rejected for sale in Germany. Their results will appear Feb. 7 in the online journal, Scientific Reports.

    David Roubik, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and colleagues developed the ability to identify pollen grains in honey in Panama and in Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s when they studied the effects of the arrival of Africanized bees on native bees.

    “Nobody else can do this kind of work in the ‘big field' environment and be confident that what they are seeing are soybean pollen grains,” said Roubik. They found that six honey samples from nine hives in the Campeche region contained soy pollen in addition to pollen from many wild plant species. …

    But recent bad news for honey consumers in the EU may be good news for Mexican beekeepers. Controversial changes in the EU Honey Directive means that pollen is defined as a constituent and not an ingredient of honey. This effectively raises the level at which GMO contamination has to be stated on the product label. It is not yet clear how this will operate at the ports and in the market. Undoubtedly some retailers will continue to stock only GMO free honey but other less scrupulous ones will seek to hide contamination from consumers.

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