Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where do flowers come from?


Human beings have been fond of flowers for many thousand years, so that’s why in many cultures offering flowers is a token gesture. In Catalonia, for instance, on Saint George’s Day on 23 April, it is tradition to give a rose. Just on 23 April 2010, six million roses were sold in Catalonia. 
Where do all these roses come from? In the case of Saint George’s Day, 82% of the roses are imported mainly from Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya. And most likely, this percentage does not vary much in the other celebrations involving flowers.
We know that we live in a global world where raw materials from one country are transformed in another country which is at the other side of the planet to be eventually sold in a third country. But this process has a price and we are often not aware of it. Let’s take the example of Saint George’s roses to realise that being grown at the other side of the world has its drawbacks:
Environmental costs: Needless to say, moving flowers from one country to another involves some significant fuel waste, especially if we take into account that fresh roses are shipped by air. But also, as roses should be kept fresh and healthy throughout the trip, they are often treated with pesticides and agrochemicals which contaminate the waters and the soil where these flowers are grown.
Work exploitation: As freight expenses are so high, farmers and employers are exploited in dreadful work conditions so that the price of these flowers can be competitive in the market.
Drawback for local agriculture: Flower monoculture (or any single-crop farming) usually lays waste to the rest of local agriculture, which forces farmers to buy food instead of growing everything they need for themselves. Single-crop farming never releases farmers from their life of poverty, on the contrary.

Then, should we stop giving flowers? No way! We can give roses or any flower we like, but just make sure that they are grown by local farmers.

Sources:

  1. Saint George’s day in Catalonia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_George%27s_Day#Catalonia
  2. On 23 April 2010, six million roses were sold: http://w3.bcn.es/V01/Serveis/Noticies/V01NoticiesLlistatNoticiesCtl/0,2138,1653_35144087_3_806752598,00.html?accio=detall&home=HomeBCN&nomtipusMCM=Noticia
  3. Article by Vets without Borders about Saint George’s roses (in Spanish): http://www.veterinariossinfronteras.org/news/2010/04/22/0002

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