Fruitless Fall

The subtitle is The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis and the author is Rowan Jacobsen.  Many books on biodiversity have bad economics but this book has very good economics:

Sometimes the fraud is chemical, as when rice syrup is doctored to resemble honey, and sometimes it’s ontological.  For instance, what is honey?  If you answered something like "a syrup made entirely out of nectar by bees," then consider yourself hopelessly out-of-date.  Let me introduce you to "Packer’s Blend," the latest offering from China.  It appeared on the market in 2006, shortly after the bond-posting loophole was closed by Congress.  Chinese honey may be subject to tariffs, but if a product is less than 50 percent honey, it isn’t covered by the law.  This "funny honey," as beekeeprs call it, is between 40 and 49 percent honey.  The rest is syrup; corn syrup, but also rice syrup, lactose syrup — whatever’s on hand and cheap.  The importers who bring in these blends may sell them to manufacturers as blends or as pure honey, adding some nice American or Canadian clover honey to give the blend a semblance of the real thing and get it past the manufacturers.

This book also offers a thoughtful analysis of the dangers facing biodiversity, a fascinating look at what Gordon Tullock called "the economics of insect societies," and a revision of Steven Cheung’s "Fable of the Bees" (the story now involves almond growers in a major role).  It is one of the best popular science books I have read in the last few years.


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