In autumn 2019 Mielificio Sottovalle Mielificio Sottovalle started the process to be certified as an organic honey farm.. “In just less than a year – says Mattia – I’ll be entitled to apply the “organic” label onto my jars”. His business sells between 200 and 300 kilos of honey directly. Most of the production, about 1,500 kilos, however, is delivered to CONAPIthe Italian National Beekeepers’ Consortium, which is the largest cooperative enterprise in this sector in Italy. “I have chosen not to deal with large-scale retail sales – explains Camuffo – as they are very time-consuming and provide little added value”.

Organic certification

EU Regulation 2018/848 defines the characteristics of organic beekeeping.
Among its most important provisions, many protect the rights of bees, while others concern the environment in which they live. The Regulation sets forth that “at the end of the production season hives shall be left with sufficient reserves of honey and pollen for the bees to survive the winter”, when the insects do not leave the hives, but still need to feed themselves. Organic beekeepers may feed bee colonies, but only “where the survival of the colony is endangered due to climatic conditions”. So-called artificial feeding can consist of organic honey, sugar or sugar syrups. The “apiaries shall be placed in areas which ensure the availability of nectar and pollen sources consisting essentially of organically produced crops or, where appropriate, of spontaneous vegetation or non-organically managed forests or crops that are only treated with low environmental impact methods” and “shall be kept at sufficient distance from sources that may lead to the contamination of apiculture products or to the poor health of the bees”. Within a range of 3 kilometres from the place where bees are kept, nectar and pollen sources shall consist “essentially of organically produced crops”. Lastly, the wax for new frames must come from organic beekeeping.

Today, consumers are hardly aware of the true value of honey, perhaps because few of them have had the opportunity to see how a beekeeper works during the cold season, to fully appreciate the gestures and ritual actions they repeat in front of each hive, and to see with their own eyes the great care needed to ensure that the bee families will make it through the winter. For those who are not in the profession, it is not easy to understand the difficulties a beekeeper may be faced with, from adverse weather conditions to pollution, all the way to the risks associated with the co-existence with crops heavily treated with pesticides.

Intensive treatments

Bee health is central to FAO‘s efforts because of the 100 species of crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, 71 are pollinated by bees. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, beekeepers have reported an unusual decline in bee numbers and the loss of colonies, particularly in eastern European countries, including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. In North America, the loss of colonies recorded since 2005 has left this region with the lowest number of bees bred in the last 50 years” reads a note from the European Food Safety AuthorityAutorità Europea per la Sicurezza Alimentare (EFSA). American scientists have coined a term to describe this phenomenon: “hive depopulation syndrome”, also known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). No single cause has been identified for declining bee numbers: “However – as explained byEFSA – several possible contributing factors have been suggested, acting in combination or separately. These include the effects of intensive agriculture and pesticide use, starvation and poor bee nutrition, viruses, attacks by pathogens and invasive species, and environmental changes”.

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