Alexandre Aebi from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland and his colleges gathered 198 honey samples from every continent but Antarctica and looked for signs of neonicotinoids-the world's most widely used class of insecticides.
Researchers found that out of almost 200 honey samples, 75-percent of them tested positive for neonicotinoid insecticides. More than a third of the honey samples had concentrations of neonicotinoids known to be harmful to bees, and probably to other pollinators as well. The total concentration of the five measured neonicotinoids was, on average, 1.8 nanograms per gram in contaminated samples and reached a maximum of 56 nanograms per gram.
While the researchers emphasize that the concentrations of neonicotinoids were below levels that the European Union authorizes in food and feed, they do cite some emerging studies on the effects of neonicotinoids in vertebrate animals, such as impaired immune functioning and reduced growth, which may result in a re-evaluation of these restrictions.
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"Results varied by region", reports the Associated Press's science division of the startling findings.
One outside expert says the study is too small to make any broad conclusions.
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Concentrations of pesticides were highest in European, North American and Asian samples. University of IL bee expert Sydney Cameron and other scientists said those comparisons aren't right because neonics don't stay in an animal's system like DDT did and are applied to seeds and not sprayed in mass quantities.
These concentrations identified in 198 samples of honey products on the planet are not regarded as unsafe for the man.
"This is an important paper if for no other reason that it will attract a great deal of attention to the mounting problem of worldwide dependence on agrochemicals, the side effects of which we know relatively little", Cameron said in an email.
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The positive honey samples contained one or more varieties of insecticides that can harm bees. He called the honey fantastic, but added "I couldn't eat it all the time".