Honey is still on the list of the most adulterated foods. Adulteration can be done by mislabeling the geographical origin, by direct addition of sugars to honey, and feeding bees sugar syrup. Fortunately, a number of methods to detect fraudulent honey is available on the market. A method based on EIM-IRMS Ethanol Isotope Measurement showed to be an efficient way to detect added C3 and C4 sugars, for example from sugar beet. The research and analysis involved a number of companies and institutions (see Resources).
In the category of publicly available policies on reducing or eliminating pesticides in order to protect pollinators, only Aldi, Costco and Whole Foods received passing grades.
“U.S. food retailers must take responsibility for how the products they sell are contributing to the bee crisis,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, in a press release. “The majority of the food sold at top U.S. food retailers is produced with pollinator-toxic pesticides. According to Friends of the Earth, neonicotinoids (insecticides) are a leading cause of pollinator declines, while glyphosate (the most widely used herbicide) has been tied to monarch butterfly declines.
“To protect pollinators, we must eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides from our farming systems and expand pollinator-friendly organic agriculture,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, staff scientist at FOE. “Organic farms support 50% more pollinator species than conventional farms. This is a huge opportunity for American farmers. Less than one percent of total U.S. farmland is in organic production — farmers need the support of food retailers to help them transition dramatically more acreage to organic.”
In conducting the report, FOE mainly used publicly available information sources such as company websites and annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage, and other forms of industry analysis.
A group of industry stakeholders in sustainable agriculture, environmental, beekeeper and public interest groups are call for reform at the USDA. In a letter sent to Doug Banner, scientific integrity officer at USDA yesterday, the coalition of more than 50 organizations ask for reforms to the agency’s scientific integrity policy. “The agency must prohibit suppression and alteration of scientific findings, employ clear and enforceable procedures for conducting loss of scientific integrity investigations, assure transparency and consistency in the administration of policies, adopt strong protections for scientists who file misconduct complaints, and participate in misconduct investigations when scientists and their work face interference. These actions are needed to ensure that USDA scientists can properly do their jobs.”
A recent article in The Washington Post details the story of USDA Entomologist and whistleblower Jonathan Lundgren, who has attributed the rapid decline in honeybees to the overuse of pesticides and the lack of crop diversity. Lundgren filed a whistleblower suit last fall, claiming he was suspended to prevent his research on the harmful effects of pesticides on pollinators.
According to a news release from Friends of the Earth: “An internal scientific integrity review panel at the USDA recently rejected the complaint of scientific suppression by Lundgren, claiming that agency had not violated its scientific integrity policies. In February 2016, USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong said the USDA will open a broad investigation into the issue of scientific censorship, but did not specify whether the investigation would be made publicly available.”
The USDA, which outlines its scientific integrity policy on its website, has not released a public statement addressing the coalition’s letter.
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