Organic Consumers Association

Why Buy Organic Flowers for Valentine's Day & Everyday

Why Buy Organic Flowers?

· Whenever you touch or inhale the scent of your non-organic flowers, you are likely touching or inhaling poisonous chemicals. When you buy organic flowers, you will not have to worry about chemicals on your flower bouquets being toxic to your children, other members of your family,
or yourself.

· The main goal of organic agriculture is to farm in ways that do not harm the environment, while there is no such motive for most non-organic farms.

· Buying organic flowers helps support local organic farming communities and organizations, which often have charitable, philanthropic motives for selling their flowers.

· Organic flowers, according to many people, last longer than non-organic ones.

· On a spiritual, holistic level, organic flowers have been farmed in such ways that they retain the essence of flowers, as Mother Nature intended them to have.

· Organic flowers are a natural part of a healthy, natural lifestyle.

· Pesticides and other toxic chemicals used on flowers affect the health of farm workers and florists. The toxic chemicals spread onto the clothes and into the bodies of farm workers and their children. Florists who handle non-organic flowers have been known to develop dermatitis on their hands.

· According to an article on, studies have shown that 50 % of workers in the Costa Rica flower industry have symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Areas surrounding flower farms there have higher miscarriage and birth defect rates than do other areas.

· The toxic chemicals used on flower farms poison groundwater and the soil. These chemicals also become part of the food chain, as animals such as birds will eat the sprayed plants. In the course of their seasonal migrations, these birds will spread these chemicals globally.

· Through evaporation, toxic pesticides and fertilizers that are sprayed on flower farms end up in the atmosphere. They then travel to other global areas to fall as rain or snow.

· Every flower counts: Increasing sales of certified organic flowers gives the market notice that more organic flowers need to be grown, which makes more flower farms convert to using organic agricultural methods.

Global Pesticide Campaigner (Volume 12, Number 2), August 2002

News Note: Flower Workers Heavily Exposed to Pesticides

A May 2002 cover story in Environmental Health Perspectives, published by
the U.S. Department of Health, pulled together current research on worker
and environmental health in the cut flower industry. Holland remains the
world's largest producer of cut flowers, but Colombia is now a close second.
One of every two flowers sold in the U.S. is grown in the Colombian savannah
surrounding Bogota. Colombia flower workers number 80,000, with another
50,000 in packaging and transportation. China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India,
Malaysia, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe all now export cut flowers.
According to a report by the International Union of Food, Agricultural,
Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers and Food First
Information and Action Network (FIAN), 190,000 people in developing
countries work in the flower business.

Statistics on pesticide use in the industry are hard to obtain, but flower
growers use a variety of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, nematocides
and plant growth regulators. In the U.S., flower imports are not inspected
for pesticide residues because they are not edible; however, since flowers
are considered an agricultural product, they must be pest-free when
imported. As a result, trade regulations in countries like the U.S. and
Japan actually promote use of the highly toxic fumigant methyl bromide, a
potent ozone depleter, for some flower imports.

Worker exposure to pesticides is of particular concern in greenhouses, where
up to 127 different chemicals are used in enclosed spaces -- increasing risk
of exposure through the skin and by inhalation. According to one study, some
flower greenhouses in Mexico's state of Morelos, use 36 different
pesticides, including the persistent organochlorines DDT, aldrin and
dieldrin. A study of fern and flower workers in Costa Rica found that over
50% of respondents had at least one symptom of pesticide poisoning, such as
headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, skin eruptions or fainting.

In Ecuador, nearly 60% of flower workers surveyed showed poisoning symptoms,
including headaches, dizziness, hand-trembling and blurred vision.
Reproductive problems are also a concern; studies of the largely female
workforce in Colombia found moderate increases in miscarriages and birth
defects among children conceived after either parent started working in

In the early 1990s, as European consumers became increasingly concerned
about conditions in the cut flower industry, Food First Information and
Action Network and Bread for the World began a European campaign to certify
flower producers. In 1999, the Flower Label Program was launched in Germany,
in which growers sign an International Code of Conduct (ICC) for socially
and environmentally sustainable production of cut flowers. Based on the UN
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICC mandates living wages,
freedom to join trade unions, a ban on child labor, guaranteed health and
security standards, reduced use of pesticides and protection of the

Sources: "The Bloom on the Rose, Looking Into the Floriculture Industry,"
Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2002.

Contact: FoodFirst Information and Action Network, FIAN Deutschland e.V.,
Die Blumen-Kampagne, Overwegstr. 31, D-44625 Herne, Germany, phone
(49-02323) 490-099, fax (49-02323) 490-018, email, website
Category: Why Organic Flowers?

Picking a perfect posey isn¹t as simple as it used to be. Although
today¹s fresh-cut-flower industry has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar
business, producing more than 100 million flowers every year, the picture
isn¹t all so rosy, says David Tenenbaum in a May 2002 report in
Environmental Health Perspectives. While floriculture work has opened up
employment opportunities for about 190,0000 people in countries like
Colombia, Mexico, and India, prodigious pesticide use in gigantic
greenhouses, where they process tons of flowers each year, threatens worker
health and safety, jeopardizes the environment and could impact consumer

To raise ravishingly red roses and other flawless flowers in controlled
environments, many greenhouses rely on large quantities of pesticides. More
than half of all cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from
countries that have fewer restrictions on pesticide use. But even flowers
grown in the states have been found to be contaminated with pesticide
residues. California-grown roses were found to have 1,000 times the level of
cancer-causing pesticides as comparable food products, according to a 1997
Environmental Working Group study.

Improper handling, storage and application of toxic chemicals, not
informing workers of pesticide exposure hazards, and the lax enforcement of
protective-gear use greatly endangers worker health. In 1990, a report in
the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health documented use of
127 different pesticides in Colombian greenhouses. A March 2000 article
published in Mutation Research reported the use of 36 different chemicals in
Morelos State, Mexico, flower greenhouses, including those banned or
restricted in the United States, like DDT.

Many of these pesticides, such as organophosphates, are potent
neurotoxins affect reproductive health. Epidemiologist James Breihl of the Ecohealth
project of the Health Research and Advisory Center in Quito, Ecuador, says
that almost two-thirds of greenhouse workers report headaches, blurred
vision and dizziness, which can be manifestations of neurotoxicity. Among
these workers, increases in miscarriages, congenital malformations, in their
newborn children, reduced ability to conceive and lower sperm counts also
have been reported in California, ornamental plants were among the top five
crops associated with acute poisonings.

Preparing perfect, pest-free petals also contributes to a poisoned
planet. From stem to store, flowers travel an average distance of 1,500
miles, adding significantly to global warming and pollution. Every three
hours, one 35-ton cargo plane departs Colombia, jetting flowers around the
globe. In some areas, floriculture¹s liberal use of ground water has caused
water tables to drop. And reports have documented "direct discharge of
pesticides and washing of pesticide equipment in waterways, and runoff
reaching important aquifer areas," says Claudette Mo, former professor at
the Regional Wildlife Management Program of the National University of Costa

To address these issues, groups are rallying around worker and eco-rights
in their own flower-power movement. Several European human rights
organizations, notably the Food First Information and Action Network, are
promoting a "Flower Campaign" to establish a "humane and ecologically
sustainable production of cut flowers." The Flower Label program, initiated
by FIAN, has been adopted by about 10 percent of Ecuadorian floriculture
business. The Rainforest Alliance, in concert with the Sustainable Action
Network, is developing floriculture standards that would prohibit use of
chemicals banned by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the European
Union, and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. Farms certified by
SAN could denote their products with the "Rainforest Alliance certified"
seal. And Asocolflores, the trade association for the Colombian flower
industry, sponsors a voluntary program called Flor Verde, which focuses on
sustainable development, including ways to reduce pesticide, energy and
water use.

No one can deny that a bouquet of freshly cut flowers is a delight for
the senses. But how many people want to bury their noses in blossoms
contaminated with chemicals? For organic and pesticide-free flowers, buy in
season from your local farmer¹s market. Or order organic flowers on-line by

Information courtesy The Eco-Foods Guide by Cynthia Barstow

Submitted: September 5th 2003

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