Rotten: Lawyers, Guns & Honey

I’m invariably cautious – even cynical – about beekeeping movies. But I just saw one that breaks the mold and restores faith in the potential for delivering a great story about the honey industry without lies and exaggeration.  The one-hour documentary Lawyers, Guns & Honey delivers. It’s one of the very few bee films which you can watch, learn from, and enjoy without getting irritated that the producers hadn’t done their homework.

I need to thank a regular reader of this blog, Susan, for suggesting this film. It apparently came out on Netflix yesterday (January 5). She had a few comments which I’ll share. Here’s Susan:

“It seemed to get most of the facts straight as I know them—the trans-shipping from China with falsified papers through other ports, the adulteration and contaminants, the sheer demand that can’t possibly be met by real bees, etc. It only shows the industrial side of the honey biz, with a side on the migratory pollinator biz, so innocent citizens might believe there is no other kind of honey out there except mostly the “warehouse blended”variety—which gets quite a long look. And there are NO women beeks shown—only a couple women in secretarial roles.”

I felt the same way upon watching the documentary. (Although, I have to add that one of the women was a high-power international sales rep who ended up in prison and the other is president of a large bee farm.  Like Susan, though, I didn’t actually see any women in bee yards.) Susan’s summary also touches on the one weakness in the documentary – the focus is on commercially handled honey, though there is a piece on Clint Walker’s farm where the audience gets a glimpse of honey made and sold locally by a beekeeper. However, the goal of the production was to explore global, industrial-scale honey activity.

Netflix describes the film as a look at “the new global honey business and largest food fraud investigation and prosecution in history — a scam known as Honeygate.”  There is much more – including bee thefts in California and the almond pollination business.  A lot is squeezed into one hour and a few things are left out, but the omissions don’t lessen the impact of this documentary.

Lawyers, Guns & Honey is an absolutely great film.  It’s well-researched and well-photographed, resulting in a compelling story. Watch it. If you have Netflix, the film is the first release in the new series “Rotten.”  It is on in the USA and here in Canada – hopefully in other countries as well.  I don’t give away accolades very often. This documentary deserves everyone’s attention. Recommend it to your friends.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
This entry was posted in Beekeeping, Commercial Beekeeping, Culture, or lack thereof, Movies, Pollination, Save the Bees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Rotten: Lawyers, Guns & Honey

  1. susan rudnicki says:

    Hey!! thanks for the kind words!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. susan rudnicki says:

    On a different topic, but one which I only recently became aware of—our state beekeeping federation, CSBA (CA State Beekeepers Assn) recently voted to avoid any further tightening of neonic usage in the state. They voted WITH Big Ag’s position that the chemicals are regulated enough. Some of my most valued contacts, especially Michele Colopy of the Pollinator Stewardship Council ( a lil bulldog of a org going to bat for beekeepers all the time) were stymied in their attempts to talk reason to the beek group. Multiple recent studies have confirmed nasty synergicity and persistence in the neonic group damaging bees and their colonies. I will copy you the letter I got back from the only person I know who belongs to CSBA and what I replied to him. It’s illuminating.

    Like

  3. Deb Corcoran says:

    I, too, watched this last night. The exposure of illegal imported honey was great. I wish it was front and center in the National news.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Erik says:

    We watched the show this morning, thanks for the suggestion! As you say, it was a good piece. I with they had talked about how to buy untainted honey. They never actually say this, and would have been a nice way to round out the story.

    Nice to see a company (Netflix) take on this type of reporting. Planning to watch the remaining episodes as well.

    Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Deb Corcoran says:

      I think the label should state the Country of origen so beware of that. What I think is to buy local honey, best for everyone!

      Like

  5. greenoceangirl says:

    Thank you for the suggestion. One of our association members also recommended it, so I watched it this afternoon. It was a lot packed into the hour. As you said, it focused on its message, of criminal action within the honey business, but did little to show where and how to support honest honey producers. Makes me grateful to know what my girls are producing.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Susan says:

    Thank you for the recommendation of this documentary. I hadn’t heard of it before and thought that I seen all of the bee movies offered on Netflix.

    Like

  8. Sroyon says:

    Thank you for the recommendation, Ron! I watched it this week, and we are also planning to screen it for LSE Bees society members next month: a very different kind of offering from last year’s Black Mirror! I know at least one other person who watched the documentary after reading your blogpost. And the next episode, about food allergies, was also really good (I’m yet to watch the others).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ron Miksha says:

      I’m so glad my post was useful! It’s easy to miss films (and news events) so I thought it might be helpful to mention it. (I would not have seen this film myself if not for one of my blog’s regular readers/commenters!) The documentary leaves a few important things out, but this is still one of the best I’ve seen on the beekeeping business.
      Meanwhile, I follow the LSE postings regularly and gain a lot from your group’s work!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Tom says:

    Forgive me if I’m being naive after watching this program. It seems to me that bees are being overworked for honey which is leading to decline. With that in mind, surely creating artificial honey is good for the bees. Yes, it is illegal and not as good for you etc, but if we want bees to thrive and do their own thing, surely artificial honey production is a good step forward as the demand for honey increases? What does everyone think?

    Like

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment. You have a really interesting perspective. It’s one which I’ve never heard before so I like that it challenges the way I usually think about things.
      However, there is an important error in the argument. If it were not for beekeepers, there would be far fewer honey bees in the world. Honey bees are not actually going extinct – there are now more honey bees than there have ever been in the entire natural history of the world (and that’s going back millions of years). The reason is that honey bees are livestock, cared for by beekeepers. Without beekeepers, varroa mites, climate change, industrial pollution, and pesticides would kill billions of honey bees. Other types of bees (bumble bees, for example) are not directly economically important and they are suffering.
      Here are a couple of charts showing how honey bees are thriving world wide:

      Hives in Canada

      Hives in World

      From this, you can see that artificial “honey” as human food to replace honey from honey bees would result in fewer beekeepers and fewer bees.
      – Ron

      Like

    • susan rudnicki says:

      Tom—then, the facts should be openly declared—and this is not happening. If you pay for gold jewelry, for example, and find it corroding on your finger later because some sheister has tried to sell you something that it is not, (so he could make more), this is criminal. Regardless of the overworking of the bees, which I do believe is happening, in addition to all the other insults described, some are trying to sell false goods, even dangerous goods, and we have a reason to expose that crime. My opinion is, no one wants to sell “artificial honey” As well, the main biz of most honey bee hives worldwide is as MIGRATORY pollination service. With the huge mono-crops and cheap food that are produced for the modern citizen, this model is not about to change any time soon.

      Like

  10. Deb Corcoran says:

    Agree with that Susan. We have recently found out that Purina is selling a new food for honey bees, sprayed with chicken blood. It seems the migratory beekeepers have more of an interest in this.

    Like

  11. Deb Corcoran says:

    Wow! I wonder why that would happen? I’m going to check that site out. I have heard the pro arguements but do not agree. Our bees can forage on what they want to, but as bee peers of the honey bees I will give them what they naturally eat. Honey bees are herbivores, not carnivorous.
    So sorry that happened to you.

    Like

    • susan rudnicki says:

      Well, if you do, you can substantiate her disinclination to believe the facts by sending her Randy Oliver’s answer today to my question about the “Hearty Bee” supplement. Don’t think she will argue with him—-
      randy oliver
      7:52 AM (9 hours ago)

      to me
      Yep, ingredients are yeast and dried chicken blood, with supplemental vitamins and minerals.

      We’ve also discussed over here, and I’m in complete agreement about the potential negative PR issue for honey.

      Randy

      Like

      • Deb Corcoran says:

        There is an ingredient list that I copied. If they accept me onto that site I will post it.

        Like

      • susan rudnicki says:

        Well, if it is the same one from the NZ Beeks site, in other words, not directly from Purina—they will label it insufficiently verifiable. The image of “the label” already got posted and the moderator and others shot it down as not reliable information.

        Like

      • Deb Corcoran says:

        This is directly from the Purina bag itself. If you are on FB under your name I will pos5 it for you, we really shouldn’t communicate lik3 this on Ron Miksha site.

        Like

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