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THE BIG BUZZ ON HONEY

THE BIG BUZZ ON HONEY image

Honey is one of mankind's oldest food products and is not only renowned for its high nutritional value, but also for its ability to treat various ailments. Consequently, Europeans have worked painstakingly over the years to control its quality. Unfortunately, environmental pollution and consumer demands for higher quality and purity have put the production of honey at risk. Agrochemicals are used to treat honeybee diseases whilst pollution from chemicals increases, thereby contaminating the honey with various toxic compounds.

In a quest to get to the bottom of the problem, nine leading honeybee research groups in Europe have teamed up with the beekeeping industry to create the BEE SHOP network. Its aim is to reduce potential sources of contaminants, thus improving the health and well-being of consumers.

BEES UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

In order to promote European high standards, BEE SHOP focuses on developing new tools for improving honey quality. These include innovative methods for disease control, preventative measures with regard to foraging upon contaminated nectar and pollen, and new treatments for diseases.

The honey food chain goes from a drop of nectar in a flower to a jar on the shelf of the local supermarket. As in the 'from fork to farm' approach, BEE SHOP considers new ways for ensuring purity at every stage of the production process, thereby promoting genuine, high quality European honey on a sustainable basis.

The two main factors affecting honey production are the foraging of bees upon contaminated material and the chemotherapy used to treat disease. In an attempt to combat the first problem, BEE SHOP is developing the biological resistance of honeybees to pests and pathogens so as to avoid the use of chemotherapy. The network screens a range of European honeybee races and populations to determine their level of resistance to the infectious agents affecting honey production. BEE SHOP addresses the latter issue by studying the disparities between the bees' foraging patterns and their underlying biological mechanisms. The project assesses how honey quality affects disease prevention in colonies, by analysing the antimicrobial properties of bee and plant-derived compounds in bee products.

BUSINESS THE EU WAY

The close cooperation between researchers and the industry is fundamental in ensuring the success of BEE SHOP. It is the beekeeper that has an important role in producing the honey and the new technologies are being implemented in apicultural operations. Thus, each scientific research partner has a commercial beekeeping partner who provides the resources for field trials and provides honey and bee samples for the research work.

In addition, a number of European partners are working with target countries from the International Scientific Cooperation Programme (INCO), such as Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. These joint ventures support local beekeeping for rural development and the production of regional high quality honey. BEE SHOP wishes to establish European quality standards for honey, and then use them as a standard in INCO target countries. Since they have the same objective, i.e. the production of high quality honey using local bees in order to encourage sustainable beekeeping operations, both BEE SHOP and the INCO target countries benefit accordingly.

BEE SHOP's strategic goal is to halt the ongoing decline of European apiculture by benefiting from a biological approach. This will increase the competitiveness of beekeeping and the appeal of honey through improved quality and consumer safety, allowing us all to enjoy its sweetness for years to come.

List of Partners

  • Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg (Germany)
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden)
  • Queen's University (UK)
  • CNRS (France)
  • CEBAS (Spain)
  • University of Hohenheim (Germany)
  • Slovak Academy of Science (Slovakia)
  • Italian National Institute of Apiculture (Italy)
  • Bee Research Institute Dol (Czech Republic)
Acronym:
BEE SHOP
Full title:
Bees in Europe and sustainable honey production
Contract n°:
022568
Project co-ordinator:
Robin F. A. Moritz, Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, r.moritz@zoologie.uni-halle.de
EC Scientific Officer:
Daničle Tissot, daniele.tissot@ec.europa.eu
EU contribution:
€ 1.8M
Call:
FP6-2004-FOOD-3-B
Type:
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top