An ersatz honey against the exploitation of bees

The taste is quite powerful, long in the mouth. Surprising but pleasant. The substance is very liquid, so much so that the small jar containing the sample is slightly sticky. The taste analysis is puzzling. A flavor of red fruits, perhaps? Some find it like a bunch of clover honey. “For me, it evokes more lavender or violet”, loose, after a moment of reflection, Ivan Schooppe, who that day runs the Famille Mary boutique, a century-old specialist in beekeeping products, near Place Gambetta, in Paris.

At the end of this blind test, we tell him that it is not honey that he has just tasted. Not a bee has foraged a single flower to help develop this bio-fermented ersatz in the laboratory. “It’s quite amazing, it really looks like honey”, he admits. “But here, this product would be absolutely unsaleable, because customers want something natural. Moreover, one in two wants to be sure that the jar they buy does not contain added glucose syrup, that the product is pure ”, specifies the seller.

“Food tech”

Producing honey without bees, is it really reasonable? This is the bet of the start-up MeliBio, based in Berkeley, near San Francisco. This nugget of the very active “food tech” which, in barely one year of existence, has managed to raise 1.5 million dollars (1.3 million euros), considers that it is doing work of safeguard. To propose “Real honey produced without bees” (funny fallacy), it is to reduce the productivist pressure which weighs on an endangered species. Protect it from the speculations of the human race, assure its leaders. And, by the way, reap the success that seems promised to all products labeled “vegan”, including wine or ersatz meat and eggs.

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With a little extra soul, because honey is the symbol of our successive and repeated failures to maintain a healthy link with the living. Bees bombarded with pesticides, exploding prices due to poor harvests linked to climate change, poor quality honeys (born of improbable blends, heated to over 50 degrees or mixed with glucose syrup) imported from China or moreover, an image of reckless and deregulated globalization …

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In short, the perfect recipe for squared environmental guilt. MeliBio will not immediately appear on the shelves of French boutiques. Initially, the start-up will sell its fake-real honey to companies that will integrate it as a sweetener in the composition of various foods and drinks, or to cosmetic manufacturers. Before offering it to American and, perhaps, European consumers afterwards.

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