This is a question we ourselves have asked many times…and it's not always as easy as "yes or no". We recently took some time to really look at the basics as to what “organic honey” is and what makes it qualify for that designation.
Honey is no different than other produce or food that wants to be classified as “organic.” It must meet certain standards set by each country. In order for a food product to be legally called "organic" by the USDA, it must meet strict guidelines. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are responsible for administering the regulations of Title 7 Subtitle B Chapter M Part 205 – NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM.
These are no easy regulations to adhere to, and include: Organic production and handling system plan, land requirements, soil fertility and crop nutrient management, to name just a few. The National Honey Board accepts the requests from honey handlers for a Certificate of Organic Exemption under the USDA-AMS Organic Regulations (7CFR Part 205) Organic Exemption | National Honey Board
Foreign Organic Certifications
But that’s just the United States……what about honey from other countries? Or what if the same honey company has hives in multiple countries? The USDA assess “organic equivalency” with other countries. Organic equivalency is when two countries recognize each other’s organic program as being equivalent. If two countries are equivalent, organic products can be sold in either country with just one organic certification. For U.S. exporters, this reduces the number of certifications they must maintain.
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) works with the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to establish equivalency arrangements. Equivalence means that the U.S. has determined that a foreign government’s standards, organic control system oversight, and enforcement programs meet or exceed the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the USDA organic regulations.
The Organic Illusion
In order to be truly organic, the entire environment that the honeybees live in needs to be organic! To better understand this, consider what bees do. Honey is made from the nectar of flowers. A single colony collects 250 pounds of nectar in a year (ref 2). Each flower has very little nectar so the hive has to visit around 100 million flowers a year. To do that they need a large territory and it all needs to consist of organic flowers. Organic Honey - Does It Exist? - Garden Myths
Bees forage three miles in all directions around the hive and possibly up to five miles around the hive for pollen and nectar. This is an area of just over 78 square miles of potential forage for one hive. Even if the bees foraged for three miles, that's 28 square miles.
In the 28-78 square miles, the plants must be free of fungicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. They must also not be genetically modified. These four requirements alone make organically produced honey practically impossible for any US based beekeeper. Any US beekeeper labeling their honey as organic would be significantly bending the truth to increase profit and sales.
Thus, a colony's foragers cover a staggering amount of territory. Because bees are furry, statically attractive little animals (useful for pollen collection), their bodies readily gather all sorts of environmental particles. Any agrochemical applied anywhere within a colony's extensive reach can end up back in the hive. Since beekeepers don't own the tens of thousands of acres surrounding their hives, they have no control over what their bees are bringing home. Organic Honey Is A Sweet Illusion - Scientific American Blog Network
So you have to ask yourself if you see a bottle of "Organic" honey - "Do I really believe that ALL those bees were raised organically, fed organically and never came into contact with pesticides and toxins when they were raised in different countries and shipped to the US?" It's up to you as the label reader to decide!
Is Florida Honey Pot Farm honey organic? The answer is no. In a dream world, all of our bees would live in an environment that met true organic standards! We do believe in the importance of testing our honey for pesticides and those our evident on our Lab Reports page.