(NaturalNews) Did you know that in a 1997 study, the Environmental Working Group found that conventionally-grown flowers may be laden with up to 50 times the amount of pesticides allowed for food? And that these pesticides can easily enter your body through your skin or nose?
These facts struck me like an ice pick between the eyes when I researched for suitable bouquets to send my mother for Mother's Day. She suffers from Parkinson's Disease, a slowly debilitating illness whose onset, although multi-varied and little understood, has been linked to pesticide exposure. Of course, I wanted to nurture this wonderful woman who once had soothed my cries, salved my fears and bandaged my knees, as well as I wanted to honor Mother Earth, so I began to dig into the world of conventional flowers.
Well, to my dismay, I found that those same pesticides that I assiduously avoid by eating Organic produce are neurotoxins, immune and endocrine disruptors, as well as carcinogens that can be inhaled along with the bouquet of flowers. There are no regulations in the U.S. governing the use of pesticides on cut flowers, and therefore, importers are not required to monitor pesticide levels. In fact, the demand for unblemished, pest-free flowers actually encourages growers to use excessive amounts of highly toxic chemicals. In 1990, the Scandinavian Journal of Environmental Health quantified 127 chemicals in common use in Colombian greenhouses (the origin of 50% of U.S. imported cut flowers), including pesticides, fungicides and ozone-depleting fumigants such as methyl bromide.
Further, the Organic Consumers Association and scientific journals report rates of spontaneous abortions, prematurity and congenital malformations among children born to nursery workers much too high to be explained by mere coincidence. In addition, increased rates of cervical cancer and reduced fertility plague female employees, while males suffer from lower sperm counts and higher incidences of prostate and testicular cancer. Days away and miles removed from the sprayings, florists who handle non-organic flowers have been known to develop dermatitis on their hands.
Even more damning evidence shows that toxic chemicals used on flower farms also poison the groundwater and the soil. These chemicals then become part of the food chain, when animals such as birds eat the sprayed plants and in the course of their seasonal migrations, spread these chemicals globally. Our already challenged, globally-warmed weather is affected as pesticides and fertilizers that are sprayed on flower farms evaporate into the atmosphere and fall as rain or snow. So, it's not a far stretch to say that the organic granola I ate for breakfast may have been tainted by those sinfully beautiful, blood-red Colombian roses I bought for my sweetie on Valentine's Day.
Reeling from toxic information overload and down but not out, I looked for an alternative here in the land of tropical flowers, the Big Island of Hawaii. I found it in a nearby rain forest, where botanist Nyree Parisi grows red, orange, pink, white and multi-hued anthuriums, in the shade of Hapu'u ferns and ancient Ohia trees on 42 pristine acres named Aina Nui (Great Land, in Hawaiian), nurtured organically only by the sun and the rain.
On a spiritual, holistic level, organic farmers retain the essence of flowers, as Mother Nature intended them to be, unlike the big commercial growers who use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow aesthetically perfect but horribly polluted blooms. In fact, Parisi follows ancient Hawaiian beliefs that everything in nature is alive, aware and responsive, greeting her flowers as friends, saying a blessing as she cuts them and packing them with a spirit of Aloha so that they may brighten someone's life as much as they have hers. See (www.Huna.org) for more on ancient Hawaiian philosophy, and visit (www.OrganicHawaiiFlowers.com) to see samples of Aina Nui's wonderful flowers.
Okay, now that I am sold on buying organic, I still want the biggest bang for my buck and Organic tropical flowers do not disappoint me here either. When properly cared for upon arrival, anthuriums, heliconia and orchids usually last at least two weeks, far outdistancing roses, tulips and lilies. Parisi recommends adding chamomile tea or a drop of Rescue Remedy flower essence to the water to make the flowers last longer, eschewing the packets of unknown chemical kool-aid available from most floral retailers.
In this year of election overkill, I choose to vote with my pocketbook by buying only organic flowers thereby giving the market notice that I support the growing of organic flowers, subtly pressuring more domestic flower farms to convert to using organic agricultural methods. I hope my efforts and those of the collective will eventually force out conventional flowers that seem cheap on the wallet but that actually come at an extraordinarily high price to our health and environment.
So the next time you send flowers, please send a message that doesn't include pesticides.
by Roger Harris
About the author
Roger Harris is a writer and environmental advocate living on the Big Island of Hawaii. He has formed a network to provide alternatives to pesticides and chemicals, www.GreenerWorld.net to help the citizens of Hawaii and the world choose a healthier future.