European Parliament votes pollen is part of honey

January 15, 2014
A honey bee packed with pollen lands on a bloom of a hibiscus in Ludwigsburg, southwestern Germany, on September 3, 2013

After years of wrangling and a ruling by the EU's top court, the European Parliament agreed Wednesday that pollen is a constituent of honey and not an added ingredient.

The distinction may seem arcane but it has important implications for the industry since it determines how honey jars are labelled when it comes to levels of from genetically modified plants.

Purity is a key selling point for honey and a label warning consumers it contained GMO pollen might deter buyers anxious to avoid foods that have been genetically altered.

Lawmakers voted 430 for and 224 against to define "pollen as a natural constituent of honey, rather than an ingredient," said a Parliament statement.

"This means that GM pollen has to be labelled if it makes up more than 0.9 percent of the honey" by volume under current EU rules on GMO content, it said.

However, the statement noted that since normally pollen content never tops 0.5 percent, "it would never exceed the labelling threshold."

In 2011, the European Court of Justice ruled that pollen was an ingredient in honey and therefore would need to be listed as such in labelling.

In the case of an ingredient, the 0.9 percent GMO threshold applies to the total pollen rather than the total honey.

The EU imports about 40 percent of its honey, with half coming from Latin American countries such as Argentina and Mexico where GMO maize and other crops are common.

Green groups criticised the vote as helping promote GMO crops at the expense of beekeepers and consumers who want purity above all in their .

The Commission, the EU's executive arm, "must not underestimate the problem of GMOs; producers in Latin America, Canada and China should be forced to carry a GMO label," Hungarian Socialist MEP Csabal Sandor Tabajadi said.

British Conservative Jilie Girling, who steered the proposal through parliament, said it was unrealistic to expect producers to do so and would be an additional burden on them.

The proposal now goes forward for discussion with individual member states who will determine its final form.

Explore further: Scientist tracks origins of bootleg honey from China

Related Stories

Scientist tracks origins of bootleg honey from China

April 29, 2010

A Texas A&M University scientist spends hours at a time peering at slides of pollen samples, comparing them to track down the origins of honey with questionable heritage. Some of the samples contain labels from other countries ...

EU seeks to clarify honey

September 21, 2012

Honey is the purest of foods which under European Commission proposals Friday should remain so once rules about pollen from genetically modified plants found in it are straightened out.

EU execs back OK for genetically modified corn (Update)

November 6, 2013

The European Union moved closer to approving the cultivation of a second genetically modified corn on the continent despite years of objections by environmental groups and widespread apprehension about GMO food among European ...

Recommended for you

Study shows sharks have personalities

May 27, 2016

For the first time a study led by researchers at Macquarie University has observed the presence of individual personality differences in Port Jackson sharks.

Automating DNA origami opens door to many new uses

May 27, 2016

Researchers can build complex, nanometer-scale structures of almost any shape and form, using strands of DNA. But these particles must be designed by hand, in a complex and laborious process.

Faster, more efficient CRISPR editing in mice

May 27, 2016

University of California, Berkeley scientists have developed a quicker and more efficient method to alter the genes of mice with CRISPR-Cas9, simplifying a procedure growing in popularity because of the ease of using the ...

Hawk moths have a second nose for evaluating flowers

May 27, 2016

Flowers without scent produce fewer seeds, although they are visited as often by pollinators as are flowers that do emit a scent. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, made this surprising ...

How sunflowers track the sun

May 27, 2016

Plants tell time. Not the way we do – for example, it's 3.40pm, time to pick up the kids. But like animals, plants can sense that winter is coming and it's time to drop leaves.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 15, 2014
The Commission, the EU's executive arm, "must not underestimate the problem of GMOs; producers in Latin America, Canada and China should be forced to carry a GMO label," Hungarian Socialist MEP Csabal Sandor Tabajadi said.

This has nothing to do with GMOs and everything to do with economic protectionism as there is no plausible way GMO pollen would be any different from any other pollen when it comes to eating it. It's plain pseudoscientific scaremongering on par with the vaccine scare, since having modified genes doesn't automatically make the food contain e.g. allergens, because it depends on what modifications are done - yet the labeling would instill the notion that all GMOs are dangeous.

Which is why the Greens are the most insidious political group there is: they're using a genuinely good cause as a tool to institute social change; at best they hold some misanthropic delusion about how nature should be protected, but mostly they just don't give a toss.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.