Sustainability in Floristry: Pesticide Use in Imported Flowers
January 14, 2021
In a significant study conducted in 2017, it was found that florists had around 111 different pesticide chemicals on their gloves at the end of ONE SINGLE DAY working with flowers. Many of these are considered toxic and carcinogenic by the scientific community. The levels of pesticide found on imported cut flowers were 1,000 TIMES HIGHER than what can be safely used on food (these same regulations do not apply to cut flowers). You see, imported flowers face stringent regulations when coming into port. They must be cleared as having no foreign pests that could come into the US, so in order to protect their flowers from being destroyed, foreign flower sellers usually dump a toxic mix of pesticide onto their flowers before shipping, which then travel in your bouquet to your dining table. This, in addition to the high amount of chemical fungicide and pesticide applied in the field during growing, they are flooded with additional pesticide when taking their carbon-heavy trip en route to the US.
Imported flowers can pose a major risk to both the florist, the grower, and the consumer's health. In Italy, early-stage cancers have been observed in 60% of long-term workers in the floriculture industry. Not only are these pesticides considered toxic and applied at a rate higher than is allowed in the US food production system, they have global repercussions for the health of our pollinators and other delicate ecosystems.
To contrast, most of your local growers use very few, if any, pesticides or chemical herbicides. Here at our farm we use zero chemical pesticides, herbicides, or sprays on our flowers. The only thing that ever touches them is fish fertilizer, compost tea, and neem oil (all 100% organic).
Hey, farmer/gardener/soil curator! Been looking for an inexpensive way to increase the level of beneficial microbes, slow release nitrogen and minerals? Have you heard of mesophyllic fertilizer? No? Neither had we, until we stumbled across this recipe...
Here's a shocking statistic: in the three weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, roughly 60 cargo planes per day take off from Columbia and Ecuador, full of pesticide-covered flowers. This herculean effort to meet the consumer demand of the holiday contributes to an incredible carbon emissions footprint, and the travel of your typical imported cut flower doesn't end at the airport:
Let's talk about transparency in the flower marketing world! As in many industries, marketing terms that are used by floral professionals are not regulated. It can be so misleading as a consumer to seek out and wade through all of these terms to figure out who is ACTUALLY selling local, sustainable flowers! Let's talk about some of the misleading terms I see the most: