The bad news: Seventy percent of U.S. flowers are imported from Latin America, where growers in Columbia, Ecuador and other countries use pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. One survey of 8,000 Colombian flower workers revealed exposure to 25 carcinogenic or highly toxic pesticides that are not used in the United States.
It gets worse. The following is an excerpt from an article in The Daily Green (which I really respect)
It reads: Often, women flower growers suffer impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure. Thirty-five out of 72 Ecuadorian children tested by the Harvard School of Public Health experienced organophosphate pesticides in the womb while their mothers grew flowers. These children later suffered both higher blood pressure and poorer spatial ability than kids who escaped prenatal exposures. Overall, according to a study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer work-related health problems ranging from impaired vision and neurological problems. Some women give birth to stillborn infants, or see their children die within a month after birth.
Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of flower workers in Ecuador are children, who are more vulnerable to chemical hazards than adults because their immune systems and vital organs are still immature. According to Environmental News Network, roses can contain as much as 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on the food we eat. The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues. So even if you’re not growing these flowers yourselves, you may still be bringing the chemicals used on them into your home.
The good news: Buy local!!!! This great article goes on to tell us what we can do about it. You can go to Local Harvest to find flower growers in your area, who can use less pesticides and less energy to get flowers to your door. Farmers markets also sell flowers, greens and plants that can make wonderful botanical gifts. I checked the website for Tucson and did not find any listed but I know that the 4th Avenue Food Conspiracy Co-op sells flowers that are locally grown as do many of the successful Farmers Markets throughout Pima County.
The REALLY good news for Tucson? I am sooooooooooo proud to say that I spoke with the owner of my florist, Greg Coleman, from Mayfield Florist and they do everything they can to purchase flowers not treated by harmful pesticides. And 75% of their flowers come from farms that are certified! As with all things “going green,” Greg said that theirs is still an industry in transition. Certification is another expense to be bypassed in a struggling industry. He also told me that florists in general are not only putting the pressure on growers to be certified but they are succeeding! ASK YOUR FLORIST! One little thing…