Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
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  • asian farmer
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  • african wheat farmer
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On Valentine's Day, Show Love for Planet Too

ROSES are a traditional symbol of love.

But flying a bunch from Kenya in a refrigerated plane isn't everyone's idea of romance.

According to the Plants and Flowers Association, 90 per cent of cut flowers bought in the UK are imported and the global market is spreading.

The world's biggest flower-growing countries are the Netherlands, Kenya, Colombia and Israel, with South Africa, Ecuador and Malaysia competing for a place in the industry.

And because British consumers don't want to buy wilted bouquets, flowers grown in these far-flung locations are kept in chilled conditions at the airport, flown in cooled planes and trucked to the packers or wholesalers in special refrigerated lorries.

Flowers that can't survive for long without water are either sent in buckets or with their own little water holders on end of each stem.

And flowers from across the world - twenty million a day - move through auction houses in the Netherlands before making their onward journey to your local florist.

But the carbon footprint isn't the only cloud hanging over the flower trade.

Leamington florist Karen Foster says there is also a human cost to growing cut flower crops in developing countries.

She said: "If you look behind the trade and go back to the roots there's a well-reported abuse of workers within the industry.

"There's evidence of people working in Africa, where many of our flowers are imported from, being very badly treated.

"Traditionally a lot of pesticides have been used on flowers to keep them in the best possible shape before shipping them to their country of destination.

"And there have been lots of reports of workers breathing in pesticides or coming into contact with them because they have no protective clothing, causing serious illnesses.

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