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July 1999

Flower Power

A bouquet that promises fair working conditions to third world workers

A colorful bouquet would seem to be a gift of nature. More often than not, however, flowers are a token of pesticides, cheap labor and air pollution. In a recent roundtable discussion of the budding flower business including Mayor Hep Monatzeder, gardeners, florists and environmental organizations, the horrors of the industry were accentuated. One of every three blossoms sold in Germany comes from a Third World country, where nursery employees are woefully underpaid and forced to work with deadly chemicals. The air shipment of these plants — which could be grown locally — needlessly contributes to air pollution. This spring, “fair flowers” became available in Germany. Under new guidelines established by the German Florist Union, organic farmers and flower wholesalers, certified “fair flower” growers in Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Kenya are required to follow a check list which forbids child labor, the use of toxic pesticides and substandard working conditions, before their flowers may be exported to Germany. Frank Braßel, coordinator of the project, is encouraged by his group’s endeavors. “Certified flowers aren’t organic, but it is astounding how quickly conditions have improved in these regions.” So, next time you wish to show your affection with flora, remember there’s nothing mightier than a “fair” rose.

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