All honey shipments from Mexico must undergo lab tests to identify and quantify the type of GE presence.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: MX2041
Honey Producers Concerned with A Biotechnology Approval
Biotechnology - GE Plants and Animals
Biotechnology and Other New Production
Agriculture in the News
Adriana Otero & Erik W. Hansen
The presence of trace genetically enhanced (GE) pollen in Mexican honey is not known to pose any risk
to humans or non-target organisms - including honey bees. However, the European Court of Justice has
ruled that honey which contains trace amounts of pollen from GE crops authorized for human
consumption in the by the European Union (EU) must be labeled if the amount of GE pollen surpasses
0.9%. Therefore, all honey shipments from Mexico must undergo lab tests to identify and quantify the
type of GE presence.
On September 6, 2011, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that honey which contains trace
amounts of pollen from genetically enhanced (GE) crops must be labeled and undergo thorough
research before it can be sold to the public. Pollen is not a GE organism as once in honey, it loses its
capability to fertilize. This scientific clarification is in line with previous legal understandings. Mexican
honey producers concerned that they may face barriers selling their product to their main exports
markets in the European Union as GE soybean is now approved for commercial planting in Mexico.
This ruling comes after a lawsuit filed by a German honey farmer claiming that a field test of GE corn
(MON810) in 2005 "contaminated" the plants used by his bees for making honey. The ECJ ruled in
favor of the German plaintiff - a ruling that could offer grounds for beekeepers in the region (Bavaria) to
claim compensation in a German court.
The judges have ruled that the pollen contained in honey must be seen as an ingredient (according to
labeling directive 2001/13 Art. 6.4 a), “irrespective of whether the pollen is introduced intentionally or
adventitiously into the honey”. This is a crucial new interpretation. The interpretation to date (on the
side of the EU Commission and supply chain operators) has always been that pollen is a natural
component of honey rather than an ingredient. Many parties consider this new interpretation legally and
scientifically erroneous. As an ingredient, any pollen (whether GE or not) would have to be labeled
putting added costs on producers.
Mexican Honey Producers Alarmed:
Mexico exports roughly 25,000 metric tons (MT) of honey on any given year – primarily to the EU.
The presence of trace GE pollen in Mexican honey is not known to pose any risk to humans or to non-
target organisms (including honey bees). However, Mexican honey producers have expressed great
concern with their government’s recent approval of GE soybeans for commercial production –
particularly since the European Court of Justice ruled that honey which contains trace amounts of pollen
from GE crops authorized for human consumption in the EU must be labeled if the amount of GE pollen
surpasses 0.9%. As a result of the ruling, and since GE soybeans may now be planted commercially in
Mexico, all honey shipments from Mexico must undergo laboratory testing to identify and quantify the
type of GE presence. As a result, Mexican honey producers are faced with paying for the mandatory
testing and, if found to have more than 0.9% GE pollen, new labeling before their products can be sold
to European consumers.
In the past 20 years, Mexican regulators always considered the possibility that bees could come into
contact with the pollen of the GE plants in their risk assessments and that small amounts of GE pollen
could be introduced into honey that was produced in the vicinity. The main information that was used
for these risk assessments were (1) information about the toxicity (or absence of toxicity) of the newly
expressed proteins in the GE plants for humans or non-target organisms (NTO), and (2) an estimation of
the accidental exposure of humans or NTOs to GE plant pollen. Mexican regulators developed risk
assessments which looked at all safety issues before permitting up to 253,000 hectares of land to be
used for planting commercial GE soybeans (GAIN Report MX2035).
The recent approval of commercial GE soybean production is another step in Mexico’s cautious
approach towards biotechnology policy with corn still a major question. This controversy regarding
soybeans and honey is an example of the overall sensitivity surrounding the development of
biotechnology in Mexico.
For More Information
FAS/Mexico Web Site: We are available at www.mexico-usda.com or visit the FAS headquarters' home
page at www.fas.usda.gov for a complete selection of FAS worldwide agricultural reporting.
Other Relevant Reports Submitted by FAS/Mexico:
Report Title of Report Date
MX2035 Genetically-Enhanced Soybeans Approved for Commercial
MX2017 Mexico Approves 4 Additional GE Corn Pilot Tests 03/25/2012
MX2001 GE Corn Pilot Tests Approved 01/06/2012
MX1100 Mapping Mexican Corn and Implications for Biotech 12/21/2011
MX1086 Biotech Corn Permits Being Reviewed-November Update 11/18/2011
MX1070 2011 Biotech Corn Permits Being Reviewed 09/20/2011
MX1056 2011 Biotech Annual: Mexico Authorizes First Commercial 07/15/2011
MX1054 June Cotton Update 06/30/2011
MX1102 2010 Biotech Corn Permits Issued 01/26/2011