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Bee keepers favor 6-mile buffer zone

(Friday, Sept. 27, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The following information comes from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA)

National Bee Keeping Centre, Royal Agricultural Show Ground, br> Stoneleigh, Warwickshire CV8 2LG 02476 696679

For further information/comment contact:

Glyn Davies (Chairman BBKA): 01364 652640 or 07711200911
Ivor Davis (Vice-Chairman BBKA): 01934 832825 or 07831 379222

Strong views and penetrating questions characterised today's (20 September) conference on GM Crops, Beekeeping and the Honey Industry . The meeting, organised by the BBKA was attended by over 80 beekeeping delegates from across the country, including members of the Scottish and Welsh Beekeepers Associations together with representatives of the UK honey industry (Bee Farmers Association and Honey Association).

The meeting gave beekeepers an exclusive forum to discuss their concerns over impending commercial planting of genetically modified crops in the UK. They were able to put their views and question, at close quarters, representatives of DEFRA, ACRE, SCIMAC, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council and the Food Standards Agency.

The importance and relevance of the 6-mile hive-exclusion zone was debated. The BBKA policy on this was strongly endorsed and that commercial planting should not occur pending the publication of further research. It was accepted that even with such a limit, it would not be possible to totally exclude any trace of GM pollen getting into honey. Debate of the acceptable definition of non-GM honey, which is clearly principally composed of nectar, suggested that the same criteria should be applied to honey as other food-stuffs, again the importance of the 6-mile limit to help to ensure this was underlined. Much needs to be done to reassure and convince the public of the benefits and safety of GM crops and all reasonable steps should continue to be taken to avoid involuntary introduction of GM pollen into honey.

Glyn Davies, Chairman of the BBKA, pronounced himself satisfied that beekeepers had had their opportunity to discuss these important issues and to be heard by the nation's GM regulators; above all, beekeepers and workers in the industry wished to uphold the reputation of UK-produced honey for quality and wholesome-ness amongst consumers.

Thomas Heck of the Honey Association said that their main concerns were that honey should be treated by legislators as a horticultural product and that in the event that GM-crops are commercialised, the current non-GM status of honey is accepted by retailers and consumers alike.

John Randall of Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeepers said that the meeting had provided a good platform and a great many factual points relevant to beekeepers on the impact of GM crops. Further, that if we want to sell GM free honey, we must make sure that our hives are 6-miles or more from any GM crops to satisfy the public's concerns.

Alan Johnson who with his wife farms 60 colonies of bees, felt that we had to open our eyes and understand the wider implications of GM material. If GM crops are licensed for commercial use it will be impossible to claim that honey is totally GM free.