From this week’s Schnews:
Anyway, if you’re thinking of saying it with flowers, be careful what it is that you say. Flowers are the most pesticide-intensive
crop and flower workers pay a heavy price.
A study published by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment reports that Dutch floral workers are exposed topesticide concentrations of up to 60 times the amount considered safe. The Netherlands, long famous as the global “flower capital,” has heavily contaminated water and air in its flower-growing regions. Some European countries are already setting up
cooperatives, with growers concerned about pesticide use and workers’ health.
Floriculture is big business, bringing in five times as much cash per acre than fruit, never mind organic veg. Consumers demand
perfection from cut flowers – nobody wants to send their sweetheart a manky bunch of wilting blooms, but the price of this
perfection is high. Flowers are dipped in a noxious brew of chemicals to ensure that they look authentically fresh and natural
when they are delivered.
Several years ago, there was a crisis in the U.S. involving the use of a fungicide marketed by DuPont as Benlate. “It was a known
carcinogen, widely used in greenhouses,” explains Dr Hantworth, “People working with plants sprayed with this substance were
getting sick. The flowers were going into people’s homes.”
In 1996, a U.S. jury awarded US$4 million to a couple whose child was born without eyes after the mother was sprayed with Benlate while pregnant; however, on appeal, the award was reversed. The case is now awaiting a hearing by the Florida Supreme Court. There have been hundreds of other cases of Benlate poisoning humans and wildlife. Total litigation costs associated with Benlate have so far cost DuPont an estimated US$1 billion dollars, causing them to
withdraw it from the market in 2001.
There are hundreds of pesticides in use, legal and illegal, around the world. The hazards posed by these chemicals most directly
affect the people working with them at a production level, but they also screw up the environment, those living in flower-growing
areas, and, in all likelihood, anyone who carries home a bouquet in their arms. So if your purchase gets a good reception and he or
she is swooning and breathless, it doesn’t mean you’re onto a winner. Symptoms of Organophosphate or Carbamate Poisoning can include contracted pupils, slow heartbeat, confusion, loss of coordination, sweating, tears, salivating, swooning or coma.
Sounds like your average love-struck teen to us.
The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the
nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogenic. Others may affect the hormone or
endocrine system in the body. The Toxic Trail website claims there are some 25 million cases of pesticide poisoning a year, mostly in developing countries.
If we’ve put you off buying imported minging toxic flowers, well, good. But if you still need to affirm your feelings with a
purchase, what could you send instead? Well you could try buying locally grown organic flowers. Or herbs to stick in the garden for a year-round supply of tasty green stuff.”