Honey is the oldest source of sweetness known to mankind, and plays a vital role in food and medicines. It has a valued place in an Indian household, used in the meals we cook, drinks, as skincare and also as the perfect alternative to processed sugar. Considering the popularity of this commodity, one can assume that a large fraction of the population would be well aware of the ethical ambiguity and unsustainability involved in harvesting it, but that is rarely the case.
Traditionally, beekeepers over the globe aim to harvest the maximum amount of honey, to meet the ever-growing demands of the insatiable modern consumer. For this reason, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Some of the practices followed in an unsustainable harvesting environment include putting beehives in oversized dwellings, that cause bees to overwork themselves to fill the hive with honey, which leads to their death. Over the years, artificially inseminating the queen bee to control mating behaviours has led to a weakening gene pool which leads to a decline in bee health and longevity.
However, to always keep looking at the brighter side of things, as consumers there are some practices that we can follow to ensure that we do not encourage this.
- Ensure that the honey we’re buying is ethically made, through labels that indicate fair trade certified products.
- Opt for organic honey. Organic honey is produced from the pollen of organically grown plants, and without chemical miticides to treat the bees. Buying organic honey ensures that you avoid contact with pesticides that may be sprayed on or near the plants visited by honeybees.
- Buy from local beekeepers, they’re almost always transparent about how they harvest their honey.
To make it easier for us, there are local organisations that are working hard to introduce ethical practices in the harvesting of honey, and one of the stars in this field in Last Forest Enterprises.
Based in Kotagiri, Last Forest Enterprise has been a market intermediary for wild forest produce that is harvested by indigenous communities since 2010. These communities are working on forest and agriculture produce, which are natural, wild and local.
Last Forest’s mission is to pioneer sustainable living choices by connecting communities and markets. They provide livelihood and training in sustainable harvesting and organic agriculture to residents in this area along with the mission to preserve, conserve and nurture the environment.
No matter how tiny, each and every step towards living a more sustainable life is important. As a species that is given the gift of introspection, we must strive towards being selfless and keep contributing to the health of our planet and its hardest workers.