Policy makers know to hit biology where it counts; in the wallet. Rural farmers in Mexico have seen honey shipments to Germany rejected because of genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples

Is it harmful? No, but that is not how European science policy is written. Instead, because GMO soybean pollen in honey has not been approved for human consumption in honey, it as returned as unsafe and farmers have to take the hit - unless they stop using GMOs and use more pesticides and herbicides.

"As far as we could determine, every kind of GMO soybean grown in Campeche is approved for human consumption," said paper co-author David Roubik, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "But honey importers sometimes do no further analysis to match GMO pollen grains with their source." 

What will Mexico do? They are the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world so they wanted to quantify the genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples rejected for sale in Germany. But the answer won't help when the real problem is that GMO rules are a political agenda and not a science or health one.

Roubik and colleagues have known how to identify pollen grains in honey since they went to Panama and Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s to study the effects of the arrival of Africanized bees on native bees. In their recent analysis, they found that six honey samples from nine hives in the Campeche region contained soy pollen in addition to pollen from numerous wild plant species. The pollen came from crops near the bee colonies in several small apiaries.

Harmless, certainly, and GMOs are better for the environment, but Europe is reflexively anti-science so they are hitting food science where it counts - in the marketplace. Meanwhile, far less precise mutagenesis escapes regulation because it does not match the legal definition of a GMO. And it's just about legal terms, not science or health benefits.

To test the honey for GMO pollen, researchers from the Smithsonian, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur la Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan and el Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agropecuarias y Pecuarias sent the nine samples to Intertek laboratory in Bremen, Germany, for genetic analysis. Two samples tested positive for GMO pollen.

"We cautiously interpret these results as significant for elsewhere in Mexico where some five times the GMO soy grown in Campeche is found and beekeeping is alive and well, not to mention the rest of the world," said Roubik. "Bee colonies act as extremely sensitive environmental indicators. Bees from a single colony may gather nectar and pollen resources from flowers in a 200-square-kilometer area. With an economy based on subsistence agriculture associated with honey production, the social implications of this shift in the status of honey are likely to be contentious and have profound implications for beekeeping in general."

Bees pollinate, that is no secret. There were no environmental indicators to be made from that, except that bees pollinate. The social implications of honey are simply that they give groups against food science another way to damage food prices. They can win a culture war using money, since they can't win it using science.

Citation: Villanueva-Gutiérrez, R., Echazarreta-González, C., Roubik, D.W., Moguel-Ordóñez, Y.B. 2014. Transgenic soybean pollen (Glycine max L.) in honey from the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. Scientific Reports