Why You Should Not Buy Roses For Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day, 9.8 million dozen roses will be imported into Canada from Columbia & Ecuador, according to StatCan. These two Latin American countries are the world leaders in the flower industry, including the production of roses for Valentine’s Day. However and perhaps more interestingly, these two countries, and their flower industries in particular, have a horrifying record of hiring children and exploiting workers with poor working conditions to meet the demand of this romantic tradition.
A Not So Rosy Picture: Labor Standards in the Flower Industry
There is about a 1 in 12 chance that your good intentions of buying your significant other roses this Valentine’s Day might end up supporting flower plantations with poor working conditions and child labour.
In order for countries to be able to successfully export flowers to other countries, these flowers must be sprayed with harsh chemicals: pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Flower-importing countries refuse to import flowers that have not been sprayed with these chemicals for fear of them carrying unknown diseases and insects that can plague local flora and fauna.
These harsh, toxic chemicals are detrimental for human health. The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project notes that 20% of these chemicals that are sprayed on these flowers are so toxic, that they are either restricted or banned in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
More so, the workers in these flower plantations often lack the proper equipment and adequate protective gear. Many of the workers in these flower plantations often suffer from headaches, nausea, impaired vision, rashes, asthma, stillbirths, miscarriages, congenital malformations, and respiratory & neurological problems (all related to being exposed to and handling these restricted chemicals).
In addition, in order to meet the high demand of the Valentine’s Day season, many flower plantations want to cut the costs of hiring more employees to meet the production demand and simply opt for increasing the working hours of their existing employees. This means that employees could be working up to 20 hour days.
The high demand for flower production, especially roses, also causes flower plantations to hire new employees, which often enough, happen to be children. According to The Atlantic, 8.3% of all flowers imported to the U.S. were cut by a child. To put it into perspective, at least 1 out of the dozen roses you buy this Valentine’s Day was cut by a child working in a flower plantation in Latin America.
Although efforts are being done by part of the U.S. government to help prevent child labour in both Ecuador and Columbia, but as of 2010, 13% of children in Ecuador are working, especially in industries such as agriculture. Another study found that in Columbia, children as young as 11 are working full time in the flower industry (although efforts by the U.S. government have been successful in reducing child labour within the country).
As Final Consumers, What Can YOU Do?
As the final consumer of the flowers that are imported every year into Canada for the Valentine’s Day season, you have the final decision on what you want your hard-earned money to support. Is this to support industries with poor labour conditions and that happen to also employ child labour? Hopefully, not.
A harsh reality of how globalization works is that our rich economy, empowered by everyday consumers like you and me, can actually make a difference. If a Canadian refuses to buy from a flower plantation that has poor working conditions and that also employs child labour, they can help shut this plantation down. In our globalized economy, dollar voting can create the change and make a difference towards helping save the planet. Little things such as opting to buy fair trade flowers this Valentine’s Day make the difference.
However, unless consumers stop being indifferent to injustices such as these that we find in the flower industry, human rights conditions will not improve in the international world where there are weaker court systems and poor labour unions. Hopefully this Valentine’s Day, Canadian consumers will rethink their flower purchases and opt for giving something that at least will not wilt in the next few days.
At ContactsForLess.ca, we believe in empowering those organizations that are fighting to save our planet from the profits generated from selling contact lenses. If you are a consumer who is interested into issues and organizations that matter, and you want your dollar vote to really count for something, please do not purchase flowers this Valentine’s Day.