Archive for » January, 2009 «

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 | Author:

I’ve read in trade journals and forums about China dumping honey in the U.S., and it’s nice to see some investigative journalism on the subject! Curiously absent from the wonderfully long story is Brazil. (Has anyone else noticed Brazilian honey in U.S. stores?) Brazilian honey labeled organicBrazilian honey sits on the shelf at the Berkeley Bowl (like Whole Foods, but local) for $1.99 labeled “organic” from the USDA. It’s the cheapest honey in the store among many lovely, local honey jars, and supposedly the USDA was in Brazil following the bees to ensure they didn’t land on any sprayed flowers… yeah right. How does it happen that Brazilian honey makes it way into the U.S. more cheaply than local honey, and can even have a USDA organic stamp on it? Certification acceptance, secretly negotiated trade agreements, blah, blah. (Brazil doubled its honey exports in 2008!) When the state of California was planning to spray all of the San Francisco Bay Area with chemicals to prevent spread of the allegedly dangerous Light Brown Apple Moth, I was told at a public meeting that the USDA would have just given “waivers” to all of the organic farms sprayed with chemical agents, thus allowing them to continue selling their products as organic. Truth in labeling? The USDA Organic brand proves again to be adulterated and green washed. Shame on Berkeley Bowl for putting their own name on it, too.

I’ll take this opportunity to post my own photo survey of the honey market I did back in November ’08 at the Berkeley Bowl. You’ll see French and Indian honey labeled organic as well, with prices. Perhaps a followup on the “honey laundering” story will reveal something about Brazilian honey imports. -D

Oakland honey Huber Honey, Cobb, CA Manzanita Honey, CA Hawaian Macadamia Honey Napa Valley honey Meek’s honey Huber Honey, Cobb, CA French lavender honey “organic” Himalayan honey Napa Valley honey Snugglespoon honey California honey

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Last updated 3:01 p.m. PT

Honey Laundering: A sticky trail of intrigue and crime

Country of origin no guarantee on cheap imports


SULTAN — Seven cars with darkened windows barreled east toward the Cascades, whizzing past this Snohomish County hamlet’s smattering of shops and eateries.

The sedans and sport utility vehicles stirred up dust as they rolled into the parking lot of Pure Foods Inc., a Washington honey producer.

Out popped a dozen people in dark windbreakers identifying them as feds — agents from Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some raced to the loading docks. Others hurried through the front door. All were armed.

The man who runs the business, Mike Ingalls, was stunned.

“I just sell honey — what the hell is this all about?” he remembered asking, as he was hustled into a tiny room with his office manager and truck driver.

Three days before the April 25 raid, customs had persuaded a federal judge in Seattle to issue the search warrant shoved in Ingalls’ hands. But it wasn’t until Ingalls read “Attachment D” that he understood why investigators were seizing his business records, passport, phone logs, photographs, Rolodexes, mail and computer files — almost anything that could be copied or hauled away.

  Mike Ingalls
  Mike Ingalls, owner of Pure Foods in Sultan, was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on April 25, but no charges have been filed against him.

He was suspected of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise — a honey smuggler.

A far cry from the innocent image of Winnie the Pooh with a paw stuck in the honey pot, the international honey trade has become increasingly rife with crime and intrigue.

In the U.S., where bee colonies are dying off and demand for imported honey is soaring, traders of the thick amber liquid are resorting to elaborate schemes to dodge tariffs and health safeguards in order to dump cheap honey on the market, a five-month Seattle P-I investigation has found.

The business is plagued by foreign hucksters and shady importers who rip off conscientious U.S. packers with honey diluted with sugar water or corn syrup — or worse, tainted with pesticides or antibiotics.

Among the P-I’s findings:

  • Big shipments of contaminated honey from China are frequently laundered in other countries — an illegal practice called “transshipping” — in order to avoid U.S.import fees, protective tariffs or taxes imposed on foreign products that intentionally undercut domestic prices.In a series of shipments in the past year, tons of honey produced in China passed through the ports of Tacoma and Long Beach, Calif., after being fraudulently marked as a tariff-free product of Russia.
  • Tens of thousands of pounds of honey entering the U.S. each year come from countries that raise few bees and have no record of producing honey for export.
  • The government promises intense scrutiny of honey crossing our borders but only a small fraction is inspected, and seizures and arrests remain rare.
  • The feds haven’t adopted a legal definition of honey, making it difficult for enforcement agents to keep bad honey off the shelves.

Read the rest of the story, see the maps…

Andrew Schneider’s Secret Ingredients blog

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 | Author:

Happy New Year! I’m not near my hives, though I checked on my New York hives and they were looking cozy, thanks to a little insulation efforts on the top of the hive to keep out moisture. (Thanks, Sam). I’m reposting here the posting from Gretchen LeBuhn, the magical being behind the The Great Sunflower Project.



Dear Sunflower Participants,

*Happy Holidays! *

I want to thank you so much for your support and participation in The Great Sun Flower Project. Together, we have launched one of the most ambitious citizen science projects ever attempted, all to help understand what is happening to our bee pollinators. Over the past twelve months, we have had over *40,000* people sign up to participate. All 50 states, all provinces and all territories in Canada are represented. We have also had a great deal of international interest in expanding the project. (I’ve been overwhelmed by this response and touched by your enthusiasm and different perspectives on pollinators.) We have grown a ‘virtual’ community of teachers, community gardeners, nature center staff, beekeepers, pollinator enthusiasts, retirees, home schooling groups and parents interested in participating in a project with their children. If everyone plants seeds this year, we will have sunflower samples from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Florida and west to Hawaii and east to Puerto Rico! You can see a map with about 25,000 of the locations on the website.

*Results from this year.* While we are still entering the data sheets that were sent by mail, below are some preliminary numbers. (If you did mail in your bee information, please make sure to enter your garden description information online.)

We have data from just under 1200 different gardens. About 20% of the participants did not see any bees on their sunflower within our 30 minute limit! Please note that negative data are very important to our study – so if you did not see any bees, do not be discouraged. This is a very important observation. Based on what we’ve analyzed so far, 1 in 5 gardens appear to have low pollinator service. Slightly fewer than 50% of our gardeners saw 5 bees. Sarah Greenleaf and Claire Kremen researched how many seeds are produced per honey bee visit, and found that when honey bees are by themselves, 3 seeds are produced per visit. However, if native bees are also there, up to 15 seeds might result from a single visit. Native bee visits result in anything from 1 to 19 seeds per visit depending on the species. What this means is that if you have 5 bee visits per hour from 9-5 pm (bees tend to work banker’s hours!), your sunflower plant will produce between 120 and 600 seeds. That sounds pretty good until you realize that there might be 10 flowers that are each capable of producing from 800-2000 seeds. The flowers would have to last for almost two weeks each to be completely pollinated. We are finding a lot of un-pollinated flowers in the flower heads that you have sent. All these insights add up to the suggestion that many gardens are not as productive as they could be because they do not have adequate pollination.

If you want to see how your garden did relatively consider that 46% of our gardeners saw at least 5 bees in 30 minutes; 51% saw at least 4 bees in 30 minutes; 59% saw at least 3 bees and 70% saw at least 2 bees and 79% saw at least 1 bee. As we analyze more data, I’ll post more results. *New collaborations!* Last year we partnered with the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the New York City Parks department and coordinated planting flowers in all of San Francisco’s public urban gardens with SFGRO. This upcoming year, using sunflowers as the link, we will be collaborating with the National Phenology Network ( ) tracking how sunflowers and bees are responding to climate change and Discover Life ( which will allow us to create an online collection of digital photographs of the insects on our sunflowers. Most importantly, we have a new partnership with Cornell called the Birds and Bees Challenge. The goal of The Birds and the Bees Challenge is to help young people between the ages of 7 and 17 rediscover nature in their own neighborhoods and become amateur naturalists, scientists, photographers, and artists. The Birds and the Bees Challenge is focused on bringing art and science to schools, after-school programs, churches, rehabilitation and recovery agencies, businesses, museums, nature centers, and parks across the United States. The majority of these participating agencies (80%) reach ethnically and culturally diverse groups as well as economically disadvantaged audiences. This project is one of 30 projects endorsed by the Forum on Children and Nature (, a group that developed to respond to the nature deficit disorder written about in Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods.”

*Plans for next year.* We expect to send an email out in late January asking everyone to confirm their addresses (we had a lot of letters with seed packets sent back last year). We’ll also ask you to fill out some preliminary information about your garden. We are working with Renee Shepherd of Renee’s Garden seeds and will be using Lemon Queen sunflowers (the annuals, not the perennials) this year. They are wonderful and germinate readily!! We will send out seeds in late March or early April to everyone who is on our list. (We will send out later mailings.) We are also planning to expand the plant list to include a couple of common perennials that people indicated were important bee plants in their gardens. I’ll send more information out about these this spring.

I am committed to supplying free seeds again this year, making participation accessible to everyone who’s interested, and to growing our collaborations and impact, but we need funds to support mailing seeds, maintain the website, and analyze and visualize the data. If you have the ability to help us fund the Great Sunflower Project, we would be very grateful. Donations can be made either
* online at: (please write “Sunflower” in the “Other” box)
* or by mail at: Great Sunflower Project, Dept. of Biology, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132.

In these unpredictable times, the role that pollinators play in our lives is more important than ever. With your continued support and participation, we can begin to determine where pollinators are declining and develop conservation strategies.

If you have suggestions about improving the project, we’ve set up a forum on the website to discuss ideas! Please give us your best advice. Once again, thank you for your support and “bee” well.

Happy Holidays!

Gretchen LeBuhn
Queen Bee

p.s. Pollinators and holidays: Here is a list of some of our holiday foods that are dependent on insect pollinators: pumpkins, apples, walnuts, pecans, apricots, avocado, bean, beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cashew, cauliflower, cherries, chestnuts, chocolate, clove, oranges, grapefruits, coffee, cranberry, date, fig, nutmeg, olive, parsnip, pear, pomegranate, and squash.