Mother’s Day is upon us, and if you haven’t already gotten a gift, you may want to scratch flowers off the list. Michael Zelenko explains why over at VICE:
The National Retail Federation estimates that this Mother’s Day weekend, Americans will purchase more than $2 billion worth of flowers. Almost 80 percent of those flowers come from Colombia, where impoverished mothers like Lorena toil long hours to produce tokens of affection for more fortunate mothers elsewhere. While the provenance of the peonies we buy last minute at gas stations, supermarkets, and corner store bodegas remains a mystery for most Americans, for the women that produce these bouquets the cut flower industry is a harrowing reality, and Mother’s Day is a cruel joke.
Work in the cut flower industry is notoriously dangerous. Flowers are fickle, and sensitive to pests and disease. To protect their investments, companies pump highly toxic pesticides and fungicides into the greenhouses where flowers are grown. Twenty percent of these chemicals are so toxic and carcinogenic that they’re prohibited in North America and Europe. As a result, workers often suffer from rashes, headaches, impaired vision, and skin discoloration. Women, who make up 70 percent of the cut flower workforce in Colombia, report substantially higher instances of birth defects and miscarriages.