Roses May Contain
Risky Levels of Pesticides
By Margot Higgins, Environmental News Network, Sun
Feb. 14--You might want to think twice before
serenading your lover with a rose between your lips on
According to a number of recent studies, roses
can contain up to 50 times the amount of pesticides that
are legally allowed on the food we eat.
A 1997 report by the Environmental Working Group
found that commercially grown roses contained 1,000 times
the amount of cancer causing pesticides when compared
with food products.
But the news should not prevent you from
appreciating the newly arrived flowers on your desk, at
least one environmentalist claims.
"The new environmental message is to sanitize
everything in our lives," said Marion Moses, founder of
the Pesticide Education Center in San Francisco. "I think
this is pretty trivial from a public health standpoint."
The real concern that Moses and many
environmental groups share is for the people that grow
and handle flowers that are drenched in pesticide.
Florists hope to sell more than 100 million roses
along with countless other cut flowers over the
Valentine's Day holiday, accounting for 15 percent of
their annual sales. Many of those flowers will be grown
in poor countries where pesticide regulations are not as
stringent as they are in the United States. Since flower
crops can earn five times the amount of fruit crops, they
have an increasing presence in the developing world.
The United States receives about 64 percent of
its imported cut flowers from Colombia. There, flower
workers, most of whom are women, suffer the most from the
industry's heavy pesticide use. Two-thirds of Colombian
flower workers experience headaches, nausea,
impairedvision, rashes and asthma, according to the
Pesticide Action Network of North America.
"There are no limits on the amount of pesticide
residues on these plants," said Richard Wiles, vice
president for research at the Environmental Working
Group. "The result is a highly toxic workplace and a
highly toxic rose."
The Pesticide Action Network analyzed reported
poisonings in the flower industry in California between
1991 and 1996. In San Mateo County, 23 percent of all
pesticide poisonings recorded were from the cut flower
industry, notes staff scientist Margaret Reeves. In Marin
County, 91 percent of all pesticide poisonings came from
"There is much more serious exposure to workers
than people who buy the flowers," Reeves said.
Environmentalists are urging people to consider
buying organic bouquets on Valentine's day. While flowers
are not included in the current U.S. Department of
Agriculture regulations for "organic", pesticide-free
flowers are beginning to be cultivated around the
PelicanNetwork has been in the business for two
years, relying on three local organic growers to fill his
Valentine's day orders.
"People buy our flowers because they like the
message," PelicanNetwork said. "Unlike conventionally
grown flowers, our flowers are not harmful to your loved
ones, nor to nature. No poisons, no insectides, no
pesticides. Grown the way nature likes." -----
To see more of Environmental News Network, go to
Margot Higgins, Environmental News Network, Sun
Valley, Idaho, Roses May Contain Risky Levels of
Pesticides. , Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News,
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