The World in a Jar

Consider a jar of honey on your breakfast table, ready to spread on your toast.

Bees make honey from nectar.  Nectar is sugary plant sap.  The bees take the nectar back to the hive and concentrate it into honey.  So honey is concentrated sugary plant sap.

Draw a circle 3 miles in radius around the hive.  Inside that circle is an area of nearly 30 square miles.  That’s the area over which the bees from each hive fly to collect nectar to make honey.  It’s a large area.  All the flowers within it are potential sources of nectar.  All the goodness that is in those flowers, the end product of a hugely complex ecosystem, is in the jar of honey on your breakfast table.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s not just the goodness that gets into the jar.  Things that your neighbour sprays on his flowers can get into the jar too.  From the spray bottle to the plant, to the nectar, to the honey, to your breakfast table.  Anything a farmer puts on his fields can also get into the jar.  By the same route.  That includes pesticides.  So any pesticides on fields within 30 square miles around the hive are also potentially in the jar.

That’s the jar that is sitting on your breakfast table containing honey that you are putting on your toast.  Honey that you thought contained nothing but concentrated sweet goodness.  And maybe that is exactly what it does contain. But is that all it contains?  Has anybody ever measured what else it might contain?  That’s a rhetorical question, by the way: they haven’t!

So the next time you read that most crops are routinely treated with pesticides, ask yourself where those pesticides might end up.  It could be closer to home than you thought.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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This entry was posted in Ecosystem, Environment, Food Safety, Insecticides, Natural Beekeeping, Pesticides. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The World in a Jar

  1. To add to this point about what is actually in the jar it needs to be remembered that Caroline Spellman closed down the independent pesticides watchdog by removing government funding claiming that DEFRA were already monitoring pesticides in food. Since then the funding for DEFRA has reduced the amount of monitoring of pesticides completely and so effectively there is nobody conducting any testing for pesticides in the food.
    And if that wasn’t bad enough along comes this report from PANNA (Pesticides Action Network North America).
    http://www.panna.org/publication/generation-in-jeopardy

    Download and read. You will be horrified. Admittedly some of the chemicals will be unfamiliar to you all but that is because they are sold under different names in overseas countries. So double check what the chemicals are called in the UK or wherever you are because it is odds on that they are globally used.

    And the UK government still won’t ban neonicotinoids let alone all the other garbage they allow to be spread on the land. And they claim they care. Yeah right!

  2. Ingrid says:

    But how many ordinary people know, I mean really know, about this? And if they knew, might they not say, ‘Oh, well, I’ll give up honey then, there’s always jam!’ Not realising that the fruit in the jam they eat is contaminated. As is virtually everything they put on their plate, because modern farming and horticulture is based on chemicals and hormones. Even the water is filled with chemicals which leach from the field. So slowly we are poisoning ourselves and our children. Even breast-feeding mothers, even pregnant woman, are passing the poisons on to their nurselings and unborn. Our children and grandchildren suffer from asthma and allergies in ever-increasing numbers, and we do not ask why. As I write the birds are singing to greet the spring morning, but far fewer birds than there were in my childhood, yet I live in one of England’s country beauty spots. Isn’t it time to proclaim the fact that we have fouled our own doorstep? Time to demand food and water that is ‘what it says on the tin’ and not some noxious mixture of whatever is the latest big pharma money-maker? The farmers tell us they cannot grow thie crops we need without the poisons – does no-one see where the irony lies?

  3. So true that the story continues, because in our international trading practises we are importing GM foods and steroid fed livestock from those countries who have less concerns about health and greater incentives for profits irrespective of the harm they cause!

    • simplebees says:

      According to the article: Agroecology …. is based on ecological systems, using them to build soil structure and fertility and manage pest and diseases.

      When I was little that approach was called ‘farming’. Funny how things come back round…

      Gareth, Cotswolds

      • I remember the reaper going around the corn field pulled by the newest toy on the farm. A tractor. beat up and held together with billy band. Stooking the corn (its not even in the dictionary so the spell check flagged it) was something my mum did for less than 1/6 an hour. 🙂 Now that was real farming.
        Went to the Oxfordshire Real Farming Conference in January where some of the topics under discussion were soil and sustainability. Colin Tudge was there too. A very intelligent gent.

  4. alitee says:

    Not a problem if you don’t steal the bees honey to spread on your toast or whatever. However, not good for the bees or any other pollinating insects, which are all suffering because of pesticides. I believe we should cast our net a little wider than just the honey bees, lovely though they are.

  5. salp111 says:

    Could it be that it’s implied farmers have to produce enough food to “feed the world”? It seems so to me.If so, that kind of message/pressure must come at a cost for those locked into the modern agronomists methodologies….bigger fields of the same crop, treated with the latest insecticide/herbicide/fungicide to ensure maximum cropping. Pressure, competition & the never ending struggle with prices…..of seed, of fertiliser, of machinery, everything. It’s a cut throat business, after all.

    It does seem, after talking to my farming brother that if you are a struggling farmer always on the bread line, battling with adverse weather, not to mention adverse financial climates & if you don’t toe the conventional agronomist line, you may as well give up the ghost. The crops will fail without the sprays/dressing & the old sprays were much worse than the modern ones anyway; the public would riot with rising costs of food & I could see the whole idea of change was rather frightening. The uncertainty of a future in farming; the financial cost of potential change; the notion that a more organic approach was retrograde; it all felt very hard.

    It’s heartening to hear of the “agroecological” way . it’s a start & if it gets into the farmers magazines as a success story, it could be the way to help people like my brother change his mind. He certainly won’t take my word for it. I am his “little” sister!! And he has a feral bunch of bees that seem to be doing very well in spite of the neonics in Norfolk, so my “cred” was somewhat undermined by their survival! (although I was very glad to see them flying)

    • simplebees says:

      Could it be that it’s implied farmers have to produce enough food to “feed the world”?

      A recent report said that between a third and a half of the food produced in the world is wasted. So lack of food production on a world-wide scale is not the issue. All we have to do is stop wasting what we already have.

      The uncertainty of a future in farming; the financial cost of potential change….

      It’s true that farmers find themselves squeezed in a financial corner due to the pressure of supermarkets and the mantra of ‘cheap food’. We need to acknowledge that there is no such thing as cheap food. All food carries a production cost. Currently a large part of that cost is paid for by trashing the environment, not to mention putting poisons in our food supply. Protecting the environment and keeping our food safe and wholesome is the responsibility of all of us, not just farmers. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and find a way forward together.

      Gareth, Cotswolds

      • Ingrid says:

        I keep coming back to the fact that it seems perverse to produce more/ cheaper food using biocides if it is slowly poisoning our children and grandchildren! 😦 In fact, if food itself becomes toxic, can it continue to be called food? Would you rather die of starvation or poisoning? Not much of a choice, is it? Yet we keep being told, ‘there is no alternative’. Is it time we woke up to the fact that the pollinators are the canaries in the mine. If they die, you can bet we won’t be long behind.

      • itsonlyausername says:

        The truth is that way back in the very early 1990’s Maggie and Ronnie conspired to do the unthinkable for their corporate, stock market and banking buddies. They deregulated food and fuel. Thus today the supermarkets sell expensive food (which it is compared to a regulated price) whilst paying the real producers less than cost to them.
        Meanwhile the speculators make loads and loads of money out of famine because as demand goes up to feed these starving billions (not millions as the governments would have us believe) so to does the speculated price. Nice little earned. 🙂

  6. salp111 says:

    If you could point me in the direction of articles etc to show “a third to a half of food…..wasted”, perhaps I could convince my brother to at least consider some change of attitude.
    I completely agree with you all, but my problem is how to help someone change from a deeply entrenched point of view, reinforced by the general agricultural community in Norfolk. I also wonder how much he does feel trapped by it all as he is usually a conscientious fellow, concerned about the natural world. Uneasy confliction.
    Anyway, there is a demonstration on friday in London organised by 38degrees.
    I cant be there but wondered if anyone can go?
    Apparently, Bulgarians have demonstrated to their government thier displeasure & have succeeded in changing the agricultural minister’s mind who was lined up to side with the UK against the ban, but now is agreeing to vote for a ban.

    38 Degrees members will be meeting at:
    10:30am this Friday 26th April
    The statue of Churchill in Parliament Square, London.

    You don’t have to be a beekeeper! You can come dressed as one, or as a bee or just come as yourself: bring fruit, flowers, friends and big smiles.

    We’re joining forces with Avaaz, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, and the Soil Association to show the environment minister how important the protection of our bees is to us.

    Are you able to come along on Friday? Obviously not everyone will be able to make it. A small group of 38 Degrees members will be delivering the 250,000-strong petition – which includes your signature – direct to Owen Paterson tomorrow. So you will be there in spirit either way. Together we’ll keep up the pressure.

    • simplebees says:

      The report mentioned was by the respected Institute of Mechanical Engineers:

      Today, we produce about four billion metric tonnes of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.

      More here.

      Gareth, Cotswolds

    • Sadly I agreed to work my rest day on this day and that was done last Thursday so I couldn’t change it even if I tried. So I have posted the piece to some friends with a few million contacts to see if we can get a few more people to attend London’s protest this Friday.
      If things change at work though I will be there. 🙂

  7. salp111 says:

    What a day! the first day when I have rejoiced in the arrival of what feels like spring proper & the ban (albeit temporary) of the 3 worst neonics. Hallelujiah!! The bees were also glorying in the abundance of pollen & nectar & were arriving back at the ranch a completely different colour. I think they had been rolling in it. If I were a bee, I would have too. 🙂

  8. Jay says:

    “Has anybody ever measured what else it might contain? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way: they haven’t!”

    *cough cough*

    Working on it….

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