You adore nature. You intensely care about the environment. And that is why you love flowers, those pretty buds that look up to you and tell you the world is enraptured in love. That is why your heart flip-flops when you receive flowers, or you go about giving everyone bundles of these wondrous gifts of nature. But, did you know that cut flowers could have about the worst effects on the environment and farmers? Definitely not sweet.
Pesticide use in cut flowers are common although not given so much attention. There is a secret world you do not see, the act of dousing those pretty little bundles with chemicals, poisoning the soil, and getting farmers sick in the process. As an example:
In a 1995 report, Bittersweet Harvests for Global Supermarkets, the World Resources Institute found that a number of rose and carnation producers use an average of six fungicides, four insecticides, and several herbicides. The situation is worse in certain other parts of the world, where flower-plantation workers are exposed to 127 types of pesticides. Nearly two-thirds of flower farm workers suffer from headaches, nausea, rashes, asthma, and other symptoms of pesticide-related illnesses.
A study which monitors the use of pesticides in flowers have found that:
…[F]lower growers apply almost 800,000 pounds of pesticides each year. About half is the fumigant methyl bromide, which was banned in the Netherlands ten years ago because of concerns about air and groundwater pollution. (The rest is primarily two other fumigants, metam sodium and chloropicrin, and several carcinogenic fungicides.)…
Worse is the harmful effects these pesticides have on the farmers. Farmers are said to suffer impaired vision, asthma, neurological problems, miscarriage and the like. Pesticides on flowers can also be a problem for anyone who handles the flowers—including consumers—since many pesticides are easily absorbed through the skin.
The Philippines is yet to determine the amount of pesticide and fungicide use for flowers grown in our highlands. It should be quite high, considering that almost all of our cut-flowers are not local flowers or endemic. Farmers import a lot of the seeds of our cut-flowers from temperate countries. This means that they do not grow well under our tropical conditions. Farmers would have to use a lot of pesticides to make sure they thrive in our environments, and look big and robust too.
So what should one do? Of course, what would be perfect is to have your own flower garden and make sure you grow your flowers organically or naturally. Local tropical flowers and plants would need little to no chemicals. Then pick from your garden and bundle up your flowers! Your other best bet is to buy flowers that have been grown with a conscious commitment to the environment and its farmers. Flower Depot Inc. is proud and happy to be growing, tilling and harvesting its flowers with the least harm to the environment. We have committed to grow our flowers sustainably, through practices that take care of our soil, keep our flowers vibrant and our farm workers healthy. For example: (1) Our farm has learned to rely on natural controls for soil-borne diseases and to ward off pests. Among these, we use natural insect traps, neem tree extract and beneficial bacteria and fungi to treat our soil; (2) We also practice natural methods on cover cropping, composting, and crop rotation; (3) The flower farm’s main source of soil fertility is legume cover crops, which provide nitrogen, micro nutrients and organic matter. These are plants that modern farming would have otherwise deemed as weeds. The natives have taught us to use these plants as a viable source of fertilizer. Also, the cover crops provide habitat for beneficial insects, keeping pests very low; and (4) We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases. Aside from sustainable agriculture, our farm encourages careful water use, energy saving initiatives, greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts, waste management and product packaging minimization.
Our farm is a happy and vibrant ecosystem. In fact, our farm is home to birds (who build their nests on the roses!), toads, earthworms, snakes, bees (who have built beehives inside our greenhouses!) and and many many more. Our ultimate goal is to protect our environment and also enhance the lives of our workers, as they are free from unhealthy and toxic pesticides. We hope to transform the floral industry to growing and harvesting flowers that safeguards the environment, ecology and the well being of farm workers.
So, if you really love giving or receiving flowers, make sure your bouquets are vibrant and living, AND grown with the least harm to Mother Nature and flower farmers.