Analyzed by the most soulful of poets and adored tenderly by the
most perfunctory of scientists, flowers have resounded through the
ages as emblems of beauty, sex, and love -- the ideal token of
affection for a sweetie or loved one. Yet the modern commercial
flower and the $40 billion a year industry behind it have a
sinister side that might just change the way you say 'be mine' this
In her new book,
Flower Confidential, Amy Stewart
illuminates many sinister facets of the business, botany, and
history of flowers. Stewart reports that 78 percent of the
estimated 4 billion flowers purchased in the United States each
year come from overseas -- most from Latin America, where flower
growers are notorious for their shoddy labor rights records.
Poor wages, unjust firings, discrimination, anti-union threats,
and even child labor are all problems the
Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) has seen among Latin American flower
growers. Through their
Fairness in Flowers campaign, the ILRF reported
that some flower workers in Colombia are exposed to more than 100
different pesticides, three of which are rated 'extremely toxic' by
the World Health Organization and many of which are banned in the
United States. The harmful effects of the pesticides aren't seen
only in the environment and water supplies surrounding industrial
flower greenhouses, but also in the ailing bodies of their workers.
Headaches, nausea, impaired vision, miscarriages, congenital
malformations, and respiratory and neurological problems are just
some of the reported health problems facing flower industry
While that litany of maladies may appear to dash any romantic
floral prospects, there is some hope to be found in alternatives.
Bouquet, a pioneer in the organic flower business, reports
bright prospects for the trade. A certification program called
VeriFlora empowers consumers by verifying the
social and environmental practices behind the blooms they're about
to buy. And for Valentine's-centric help, the Organic Consumers
Association offers the
'Unchain Your Heart!' buyer's guide.
Perhaps the best option, however, is to grow your own flowers.
What better way to tell your Valentine 'I love you' than with
wildflower seeds that will bring a bloom that lasts all summer?
Go there >>
Go there, too >>
ILRF Fairness in Flowers Campaign
And there >>
Unchain Your Heart!
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