How Safe Are Our Flowers?

The havoc caused by the pesticides in the food industry is already well known. The knowledge and utilization of organic food has grown gradually in the last ten years, with the public demanding extended regulations and pesticide checks. Authorities all over the world have acted seriously with strict measures to avoid contamination of food products by poisonous chemicals.

But, as far as the flower industry is concerned, there is found to be a complete ignorance of such regulations to regulate toxicity related to the chemicals used for flowers, which has really disappointed the environmentalists.

Let’s have a look at Colombia’s flower sector which shows a huge success story at the first glance. A small number of flower farms have turned into an industry with 450 companies, within just 25 years, making Colombia the second biggest flower exporter after Netherlands. In Europe, Britain is the biggest single market for Colombia’s flowers and the British customers purchase more than 50 percent of their carnations (about 33 million) from Colombia. But this is only one side of the picture, which looks quite bright. The other side is the darker one. To avoid any risks of rejection by the imported countries, the Colombian flower producers use excessive quantities of pesticides on the plants in order to prevent any disease or blemish. This ultimately results in poisoned workers, water contamination and parched soil.

Here are some realities:
Flowers consume more pesticides as compared to any other agricultural products.

Flowers are ravenous. Their thirst for water is extraordinary.

On one hand the flower cultivation is harsh on the environment; on the other hand 75,000 Colombian people are engaged with this industry. Out of them, 70 percent are women who work for as low as US 58 cents an hour. They often work up to 60 hours a week before special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. These workers are suffering from different types of diseases which are linked to exposure to the variety of pesticides that are repeatedly used to ensure beautiful, pest-free blooms. Even these workers are forced to enter greenhouses just one or two hours after they are sprayed.

However, Colombia is not alone. The roses cultivated in the United States are also not safe. The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is responsible for the control and monitoring of chemical substances used in the production of both cut flowers and ornamentals. However, EPA only monitors the safety issues for growers and workers, and it does not deal with certain health issues that the consumers may face due to the pesticides’ deposits on flower products.

In an unpublished study in 1998, the Environmental Working Group (EVG) examined eight rose samples bought from retailers or by phone and detected a dozen different pesticides including two that are listed as probable carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to Richard Wiles, the vice president for research at EWG, one of those pesticides was detected in a sample at a level 50 times higher than the amount allowed in food. He also added,” There is a fair amount of pesticides on roses, no matter where they come from Colombia or California”. This clearly shows how safe are our flowers!

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