Some Valentine’s roses not so sweet

February 14, 2008

by Craig Etchison

Valentine’s Day is here, and many Americans will buy roses to show their love for someone special. But what’s the cost of those roses? Not monetary cost, but the cost to the environment and to the people who produce those roses?

Most of the 1.5 billion roses sold in the U.S. are grown in Ecuador and Columbia. The majority of these flowers are treated with a toxic cocktail of pesticides and fungicides. Growers in Ecuador use 30 different pesticides, and 20 percent of the chemicals used in Columbia are banned in the U.S. and Europe.

What does this mean for the environment and the workers in the fields? The deadly stew of pesticides used on roses end up in rivers, streams, and lakes, killing fish and other animals and inevitably leeching into the ground water. Old chemical containers containing toxic residue are regularly dumped into rivers. The environmental devastation is wide and deadly.

The field workers — half are women — suffer horrible diseases. Two-thirds of Ecuadorians evidence toxic chemical exposure. All suffer from headaches according to one worker. Other signs of toxic exposure include dermatitis, cataracts, respiratory, and neurological problems. Women often have trouble getting pregnant, and when they do, miscarriage is frequent. And this for obscenely low wages.

Is there an alternative? Yes. A nascent organic/sustainable flower trade is blooming. Look for — rather insist on — the VeriFlora label, which guarantees environmental and social responsibility along with quality control. is the first online ecoflorist, and their prices are not substantially different from those of toxic roses. Support social and environmental justice, which will help grow sustainable practices.

This Valentine’s Day, consider what kind of love you are showing if you choose to buy toxic roses. Does contributing to the destruction of the health of workers — people just like us — and the health of the environment really show love? If you can’t find sustainably grown roses, look for an alternative way to show your love.


2 Responses to “Some Valentine’s roses not so sweet”

  1. The Frisco Kid Says:

    Thanks, that was a great story. I never realized that such a thing of beauty would come at such a cost.
    But, what I really appreciated was that you not only brought the issue of toxic flowers to our attention, but gave us a solution too.
    Next time it will be Veriflora and for me. TFK

  2. Jeff Deasy Says:

    Thank you for calling for purchasing flowers from sustainable farms, which of course are also a great source for fresh food. I’ve found that most family farmers don’t want to use a lot of poisonous pesticides and other chemicals because their families live on the land they work. They prefer natural methods of farming and believe those methods produce the healthiest and best-tasting food.

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