It's the Environment, Stupid.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A rose is a rose even when toxic

Tis the season for news stories on flowers, chocolate and love. Of course the green blogosphere is covering these topics from every green angle possible - but I was surprised to see this AP story come across the MSN headlines, "Valentine Roses Sprayed with Toxic Chemicals."

BOGOTA, Colombia (Feb. 13) - It's probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses - by the time the bright, velvety flowers reach your Valentine, they will have been sprayed, rinsed and dipped in a battery of potentially lethal chemicals.

Most of the toxic assault takes place in the waterlogged savannah surrounding the capital of Colombia, the world's second-largest cut-flower producer after the Netherlands. It produces 62 percent of all flowers sold in the United States.

With 110,000 employees - many of them single mothers - and annual exports of $1 billion, the industry provides an important alternative to growing coca, source crop of the Andean nation's better known illegal export: Cocaine. But these economic gains come at a cost to workers' health and Colombia's environment, according to consumer advocates.

The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues.
(My emphasis of course - finish reading the article here.)

And what's the easiest way to get your buds bug-free? Pesticides! Of course the article goes on to say that the South American flower farmers need to keep up with the competition on other continents, and flowers are a big export to America and they really need the cash.

But at what price? Workers in these flower farms are getting sick because of this practice (even though "Causal links between chemicals and individual illnesses are hard to prove because chronic pesticide exposure has not been studied in enough detail.") This is not new news. It has been documented for years, however it is nice to see it exposed in the mainstream media. (Atlhough I doubt that a blockbuster movie about flower growers in Bogota is in the works...)

I'd say hold off on your flower purchase until your local growing season, and then buy from your local farmers markets or as straight to the source as you can go.


  • The sustainability catch phrase for next year's Valentines Day should be "Say It without Flowers."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 19:34  

  • I agree completely with Amy - buy local and in season! But for those who absolutely must have what they want when they want it, they can at least go organic. There's a new certifying group called "Veriflora" that guarantees flowers have been produced "in an environmentally and socially responsible manner." The one online seller I've come across that's Veriflora certified is Organic Bouquet based out of California.
    Read about it here:
    (Yes, that's a shameless plug for my blog, but I swear I'm only doing it because it's totally 100% relevant!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 19:49  

  • While it is not exactly about the environment. Democracy Now! had a very in depth coverage on flower, chocolate, and diamond on its Valentines Day show. Beyond chemical contract, workers' working condition is unthinkable. In the end, it's (again) the big boss who get all the profit. I was angry upon hearing that...

    I recommend everyone to check out the show. I myself listen to Democracy Now! everyday.

    By Blogger Hoi, at 22:29  

  • My uncle died from spraying pest. to flowers & crops in the fields with little to none protection (masks, etc..)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17:28  

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