Most people are familiar with honey, the sweet, sticky, edible substance produced by nectar-drinking bees, but many are unaware that some commercial honey is classified as organic. While the exact definition of organic honey can vary based on an individual country’s laws, in the US, it generally must fulfill a number of criteria relating to bees’ diets and habitats, as well as the way that the honey is produced. Some people feel that organic honey is healthier and tastier than its non-organic counterpart. As it is difficult to ensure that the recommended criteria for organic honey are met, however, many food experts in the US and elsewhere are skeptical that production of this type of honey is truly possible.
Like all honey, organic honey is produced when honeybees use enzymes to convert flower nectar into a sweet, golden syrup. Bees store this substance in waxy structures called honeycombs, which are found within their hive. Commercial honey producers then harvest this honey, bottle it, and sell it. A producer cannot market his honey as organic, however, unless it meets a set of standards established by the body that regulates organic food production in his country.
In the US, honey must satisfy a number of different conditions to be considered organic. First of all, it must be made by bees that have not ingested any substances deemed non-organic, such as nectar drawn from flowers that have been exposed to pollution runoff. The bees must also live in a hive that is free from non-organic materials, like pesticide-tainted wax, and must be kept free of mites and other pests using only natural means. Further, organic honey must be harvested in accordance with a number of procedures that protect the bees’ well-being and prevent contamination by synthetic materials.
According to organic honey advocates, there are two primary reasons for choosing organic honeys over non-organic ones. First of all, using an organic product can help limit one’s exposure to pesticides and other synthetic substances. Additionally, it has been suggested that organic honey simply tastes better than honey that is not organic.
Many food experts argue, however, that in the highly developed world of the early 21st century, honey that is truly organic is all but impossible to produce. This is largely because honeybees often travel long distances to collect nectar, and thus the likelihood that they have come into contact with non-organic substances while producing honey is high. Furthermore, it can be difficult to access organic versions of many essential beekeeping tools, such as wax honeycomb starter kits. Finally, as enforcement of organic honey regulations can be lax in countries like the US, some unethical producers may put organic labels on honey that does not actually meet organic criteria.