Honey’s flavour and phytonutrients are uniquely created based on the flora and fauna in the immediate vicinity. Thus, Grenada’s honey bees utilize plants native to Grenada and its environs making our local honey award winning.
Written by Tricia Simon, principal attorney-at-law at Tricia Simon Law Office in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, (416) 986-1697 and Simon & Associates in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique (473) 403-1697. She is also the owner/operator of La Bonté, a natural skin care line and Mt. Parnassus Plantation, a nature-based tour facility offering short term stays, local teas and beverages.
When one thinks of a world class honey competition one which comes to mind is the National Honey Show in the UK, “The National Honey Show is the UK's premier honey show with international classes, Lecture Convention and Workshops.” In 2015 a local Grenadian brand of honey associated with Dr. Valma Jessamy of Jessamine Eden Wellness Farm won in the Open Classes of the 2015 Cup Award for world class honey.
In addition to flora and fauna there are different types of honey bees which affects the honey output, “Honey bees, like all other living things, vary among themselves in traits such as temperament, disease resistance, and productivity. The environment has a large effect on differences among bee colonies (for example, plants in different areas yield different honey crops), but the genetic makeup of a colony can also impact the characteristics that define a particular group. Beekeepers have long known that different genetic stocks have distinctive characteristics, so they have utilized different strains to suit their particular purpose, whether it be pollination, a honey crop, or bee production.” Stingless bees are known to produce less quantities of honey but today are used to produce medicinal quality honey. According to the article they are “known as meliponine bees, surround a honey pot within their hives. Their honey is used to help wounds heal and to treat infections.” Grenada already has stingless bees; can they be found to enter into the medicinal honey market? Was research conducted on whether the endemic bee stock in Grenada affects the quality of our international award-winning honey?
Today, the bee industry in Grenada operates where the bees are left to forage in the wild, few apiculturists deliberately plant flowers in their immediate vicinity to feed their bees. Scientist are aware that habitat influence the “floral (flower and nectar characteristics, phenology) and pollination biology (flower visitors and breeding system)” thus allowing Grenada to have its award winning honey. Has the bee industry in Grenada conducted research on why this occurs? Thus, it is important to keep Grenada “pure, clean and clean”, the mandate of the Grenada Green Group (G3) which with other environment-based group focusing on anti-litter work tireless to ensure our bees can forage in a pristine environment.
In addition to the honey industry, Grenada has a thriving award winning flower industry which has won fifteen (15) gold medals at the world class event, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Can the horticulture and apiculture industries coexist? Humans love the exotic, something different and sourced from far off places. A recent article in the BBC coined, “The beautiful flowers that bees can’t use” provides interesting food for taught. The article highlighted the flower trade, selective breeding for showmanship in a flower and the resulting lack of the functional use of a flower for honey bees, “To decorate green spaces, most cities and amateur gardeners rely on horticultural plants – those that have been selectively bred for certain qualities, such as their ornamental value. With their flashy colours, unusual shapes and larger proportions, they may be attractive to the human eye. But they are not necessarily useful for bees and other pollinators.” Thus, individuals involved in the horticultural industry should use best efforts to promote and increase cultivation of plants endemic to Grenada which benefits our award-winning honey industry and industrious bees.
Hybrid species are on the march – with the help of humans, speaks to the changing of plants which is a natural process, “Species that evolved far apart have been thrown together by worldwide transport, global warming, deforestation and farming. This is increasing the rate at which plant hybrids are being produced and these new species can dramatically affect local plants, animals and ecosystems….Ecosystems in emerging economies could be particularly at risk, where land use is changing rapidly and international trade is still accelerating, for example the Amazon rainforest or the mountains of south China which are among the world’s richest natural locations.” The difference is that with human interference one should ensure a flower remains functional and not merely a show piece.
The United Nations, Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (RAMSAR) focuses on the “framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.” Biodiversity and conservation are key tenents. Both Grenada and China are signatories to the RAMSAR convention as they are aware of the significance to protect wetlands and so biodiversity. Grenada has one RAMSAR site the, Levera National Park or the Levera Marine Park which is 518 ha and so falls under the ambit of the RAMSAR convention with all of its importance for international significance and the Caribbean region. How does development in this area affect Grenada’s biodiversity, the apiculture and horticultural industries, I digress, even the fishing industry?
In its bid to protect its wetlands and biodiversity China has recently “named eight new Wetlands of International Importance. These “Ramsar Sites” cover over 2.8 million hectares, and so China now has 57 Sites extending over more than 6.9 million ha.” With climate change upon us and rapid develop in China they are experiencing excessive drought, thus the protection of its RAMSAR sites it imperative for the Chinese population and their sustained development. Studies have shown that wetlands protect against drought and due to climate change and other factors such as the destruction of wetlands Grenada experiences increased drought.
In China, biodiverse areas such as the Qinling Mountains in China are protected and “cover more than 50,000 square kilometers and are dubbed as China's "gene bank" of wild biology as it houses a huge variety of plants and wild animals. Data from the local forestry bureau show the mountain range is home to about 3,800 kinds of seed plants and 587 wild animal species.” China protects it biodiversity wherein the National Science Review touts that, “The global significance of biodiversity science in China: an overview.” The article further highlight’s China’s focus on protecting its biodiversity where it stated, “Biodiversity science in China has seen rapid growth over recent decades, ranging from baseline biodiversity studies to understanding the processes behind evolution across dynamic regions such as the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.”
Globally, the worldwide community due to climate change and continued research woke up and has placed significant important on RAMSAR sites, “Worldwide, there are 2,289 Ramsar sites covering 225,399,512ha. Of the 10 ASEAN member states, 8 have acceded to the Ramsar Convention, with Singapore and Brunei being the 2 exceptions. There are a total of 53 Ramsar sites in ASEAN: 4 in Cambodia, 7 in Indonesia, 2 in Laos, 7 in Malaysia, 4 in Myanmar, 7 in the Philippines, 14 in Thailand, and 8 in Vietnam. They cover a total area of 3,121,348 ha.”
Countries such as Singapore and Brunei are not signatories to the RAMSAR convention. Despite not signing to the RAMSAR convention the Singapore government and its educational institutions place significant emphasis on protection its wetlands wherein they are seen as “treasures of natural and cultural heritage, and can serve as significant allies in the fight against climate change.” The government and people of Singapore should be awarded with efforts to protect its wetlands with projects such as the Sungei Buloh Wetland, “Sungei Buloh's vision is to be a premier wetland hub and nature learning center serving Singapore and the region. It aims to export a unique Singaporean product, and to draw upon the experience of international partners to enrich our local communities. The master plan is a seminal project aiming to move the wetland reserve from a nature park to that of a regional education and research facility, while retaining the iconic rustic charm.”
Bees utilize two parts of a plant, nectar and pollen, again man made changes are having deleterious effects on the bee keeping industry, “We love big, puffy, and flashy flowers. To make flowers more attractive, we selected some double-petal species. It gives the impression that the flower is bigger. But, in reality, the nectar part, which is vital for pollinators, might not exist anymore because of this selection. In other cases, it may be hidden by the petals," explains Stephanie Frischie, native plant materials specialist at Xerces Society, a non-profit organisation based in Portland, Oregon.” The precautionary principle in environmental science espouses, “a new guideline in environmental decision making, has four central components: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making.” These deleterious effects in regards to the loss of flora are significant, Where have all the flowers gone? Honey bee declines and exclusions from floral resources explains the significance of the need for both the bee and flower industries to coexist. The recent heavy rainfall was a clear indication of the vulnerability of the honey industry where some bee keepers lost close to 50% of their stocks as it was too wet for the bees to forage for food in the wild.
Individuals involved in the horticulture industry should be reminded that flowers are and should be “functional” in regards to bees. They form a mutually beneficial relationship, “Bees feed on the nectar and pollen of flowers…Bees benefit flowering plants by helping the plants reproduce, via pollination….Without bees, pollination and reproduction would be practically impossible for some plant species. This makes bees a vital part of every ecosystem they inhabit. Humans also greatly benefit from the pollination bees provide. Bees' work allows humans to enjoy fruits, vegetables and other plant products that would not be available otherwise.”
Honey in Canada is a highly regulated industry where Health Canada has set out specific guidelines in regards to its import to protect the local apiculture industry. The requirements are stringent and include, “Honey, by definition cannot include added ingredients such as colour or sugar and still be called honey (Section B.18.025, B.18.026 and B.18.027 of the Food and Drug Regulations, (FDR)). Importers are responsible for ensuring the honey they import is safe, truthfully represented, and meets Canadian requirements. Importers are also required to source from foreign suppliers who are manufacturing, preparing, storing, packaging, and labelling the food under conditions that provide the same level of protection as those outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), the Food and Drugs Act and FDR.”
We know fraud in the honey industry is increasing, “Honey fraud is the intentional tampering, through substitution or addition, of the natural product and processes to reduce the cost of its production and increase the perceived value for economic gain. as a rule of thumb, the cheaper the honey, the more likely it is to be adulterated.”
The FDA lists honey as one of the top items where food fraud is rampant, “Honey and Maple Syrup: Even though their labels represented their food as a pure product, some unscrupulous companies have previously mixed honey or maple syrup with cheaper sweeteners such as corn syrup, rice syrup, sugar beet syrups, or cane sugar. This lowered the cost of production, but consumers still paid the full price of a pure honey or maple syrup product with the additional profit going to the companies.”
In addition to the economic benefit to the seller food fraud poses public health concerns for consumers, “What's truly dangerous about food fraud, aside from its economic impact, is the threat to public health. Mislabeled packages, ingredient substitutions, and counterfeiting quality products all carry massive risks to public health.” As consumers are we sure that the cheaper, imported honey now present on our shelves meet and exceed the standards set by the Grenada Bureau of Standards, are they safe for human consumption? Are we drinking ‘sugar water’ endangering our health, since we know Grenada has a high and sharp increasing rate of diabetes, “In 2021, diabetes prevalence for Grenada was 12.6 % . Diabetes prevalence of Grenada increased from 12.1 % in 2000 to 12.6 % in 2021 growing at an average annual rate of 8.79%.”
The India Today in the article, Dabur, Patanjali among 13 brands adulterating honey with sugar syrup: CSE study stated, “A study has exposed the rampant adulteration of packaged honey sold in Indian markets. The study claims that 13 of the biggest brands including Dabur and Patanjali have failed a key test which is considered the gold standard for testing the quality of honey. Only Dabur has come out with a statement rejecting the finding of the study.” The article further stated, “The CSE study said honey samples from leading brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya failed NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) test. The samples of these brands were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat. The CSE said almost all the top brands passed the tests of purity while a few smaller brands failed the tests to detect C4 sugar or basic adulteration using cane sugar. However, when the same brands were tested using NMR — laboratory tests currently being used globally to check for such modified sugar syrups — almost all the big and small brands failed. Out of the 13 brands, only three passed the NMR test conducted by a specialised laboratory in Germany. "What we found was shocking. It shows how the business of adulteration has evolved so that it can pass the stipulated tests in India. Our concern is not just that the honey we eat is adulterated, but that this adulteration is difficult to catch. In fact, we have found that the sugar syrups are designed so that they can go undetected," said Amit Khurana, programme director of CSE's Food Safety and Toxins team, said.”
In 2008 the United States experienced honey fraud which went like this, “Considered at the time to be the largest instance of food fraud in the U.S, in 2008 both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security began an investigation into the illegal importation of adulterated honey. Several members of the German-based ALW Food Group were charged with mislabeling and adulterating imported low-quality honey. Because the honey was harvested by machines rather than bees, it was left with a pungent smell and a taste described as, "[like] sauerkraut," which they dulled with a liberal use of sugar and syrup. In 2013 more charges were brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against several defendants from Honey Holding I, LTD for illegally importing honey from China that was adulterated with antibiotics not meant to be used in honey. In both instances, both ALW Food Group and Honey Holding were able to avoid up to $80 and $180 million in "anti-dumping duties," respectively. Anti-dumping duty is defined as a domestic tariff on foreign import commodities considered to be priced below fair market value. Basically, it's meant to protect local markets from being undercut by foreign products being "dumped" on the domestic market.”
The process and constituent are typically altered, “…honey was often harvested early and dried by machine rather than bees. This allowed the bees to produce more honey, but the honey often had an odor and taste similar to sauerkraut. Fan was told to mix sugar and syrup into the honey in Taiwan to dull the pungent flavor.”
For the honey industry to grow and uphold its authentic Pure Grenada brand it is imperative that the honey industry players advocate for a strong cohesive unit and collaborate with the flower industry for both industries to thrive. Second, local florist should be encouraged to continue to use flora and fauna which are endemic to Grenada to protect the honey industry. Garvin Glasgow of G-Links Limited another innovator in Grenada’s apiculture industry advocates for the development and enforcement of a national beekeeping and honey policy, licensing and standards to regulate the economically valuable industry to protect the Pure Grenada honey brand and also consumers. The bee and flower industry industries should work with nationals to encourage the planning of endemic plants to boost their production. The bees and flowers are also important for the agricultural industry to achieve food security in Grenada due to bee pollination. A recent World Bank report speaks to the lack of food security in Grenada – allu let us work todder for national development.