Posted by: rachelbr86 | February 15, 2011

Show your love, buy organic

February fifteenth and many of us are recuperating from a day of love and flowers. For some of us the flowers are filling our homes, and spreading signs of God’s great beauty. These flawless flowers could have been produced with pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, nematocides and plant growth regulators. The use of these chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system damage, and whole host of other medical dangers.  These flowers that are imported are dangerous, and all evidence indicates that the Global south and communities of color are feeling the impact of the health risks.

During the Valentine holiday season  U.S.Customs and Border patrol processed, in 2010, approximately “320.8 million cut flower stems …Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia (211.9 million stems or 66 percent) followed by Ecuador (70.5 million stems or 33 percent).”  These imported flowers need to be unblemished to be purchased by US consumers. To achieve flawless appearance the flowers are fumigated with chemicals to kill insects and mildew and dunked in preservatives to keep them from rotting before shipment. Doctors and the United Nations have sighted these practices as health risks for those involved in growing the flowers.

This high risk of exposure is felt not by those in US who demand the flowers but the people of Columbia and Ecuador. “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 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.” The risk of exposure, through skin or inhalation, increases if people are in a greenhouse or in closed place.

Most individuals buy imported flowers once a year, and a quick solution is for us as individuals to alter our valentine day purchase choices, and to green our weddings or other important moments in our lives. There is another moment to consider as well- our weekly church altars and sanctuaries.

Many congregations purchase flowers weekly to display.  Flowers are an amazing sign of God’s creation and beauty in the world. At times these are gifts from members in the congregation.

Do you know where they came from? How the flowers were produced? Was the worker’s health and care for creation taken in to account?

The flowers on display in our churches are also the same ones that are imported from Latin American Countries and lead to  illness and misery of our brothers and sisters in the global south.  Consider making the commitment to green your church each Sunday by purchasing organic flowers. You can find resources about flower arrangements here.

There are three great Organic labels for flowers and in 2009 Mother Jones Website rated them:

VeriFlora For flowers grown with good labor practices, without heavy-duty chemicals, on farms that are going organic. Certified by one of the best third-party investigators.

Fair Trade Certified Flowers come from farms that pay good wages and help with health care and housing. Farms are encouraged but not required to avoid toxic chemicals.

FlorVerde A mixed bouquet. Created by a Colombian trade group, FlorVerde lets growers use toxic pesticides. It requires better hours, wages, and working conditions—but not as aggressively as Fair Trade does.

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