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Ask G: Is honey environmentally sound?

Food writer Richard Cornish clarifies the eco-credentials of honey.

Is honey environmentally sound?

Honey

Credit: iStockphoto

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Almost all of the honey produced in Australia comes from European Honey bees that were introduced into Australia since European settlement. Many bees in the Australian bush are feral escapees that live in tree hollows that would otherwise be home to native birds and animals. They are aggressive foragers and compete for nectar with the 1200 native bee species. Native bees have co-evolved with Australian plants and play an important part in pollinating native plants.

It is thought European Honey bees do not pollinate some native species. So there are some negative impacts that introduced bees have on the native environment and a hard-core forest lover would only eat honey from native bees (available from www.sugarbag.net).

We have, however, modified so much of the environment that 30 per cent of our food crops require European Honey bees to fertilise them. Honey from these crops, such as canola or even clover is a normal part of that food production – but not nearly as tasty as that from our native forests.

For an in-depth look into bees in Australia, check out the June/July 2011 issue of G magazine.