Toxic Valentines Day

Designating one day of the year as a love day is simply a way for merchants to prosper. Of course, real love does not show it’s chocolately, rosy face on just one day. For many, the expectations that come from Valentines Day cause consternation, melancholy and grief if there is not a someone special lavishing them with chocolate and roses. Aside from the farcical aspect, v-day love is laced with poison and bound in enslavement.

A Valentine classic: Roses dipped in chemicals
Colombia is a major exporter, and major user of toxic pesticides

It’s probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses. But by the time the velvety, vibrant-colored flowers reach a Valentine’s Day buyer, most will have been sprayed, rinsed and dipped in a battery of potentially lethal chemicals.

Most of the toxic assault takes place in the waterlogged savannah surrounding the capital of Colombia, which has the world’s second-largest cut-flower industry after the Netherlands, producing 62 percent of all flowers sold in the United States.

With 110,000 employees — many of them single mothers — and annual exports of $1 billion, the industry provides an important alternative to growing coca, the source crop of the Andean nation’s better known illegal export: cocaine.

But these economic gains come at a cost to workers’ health and Colombia’s environment, according to consumer advocates who complain of an over-reliance on chemical pesticides.

Colombia’s flower exporters association responded by launching Florverde, which has certified 86 of its 200 members for taking steps to improve worker safety and welfare. Florverde says its members have reduced pesticide use by 38 percent since 1998, to an average of 213 pounds of active ingredient per hectare (2.4 acres) per year.Full Story

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Slave Chocolate

Bittersweet chocolate

Of the $1.1 billion in boxed chocolates that Americans are expected to buy on Valentine’s Day, very little will be untainted by the scourge of child labor. Although some who buy those bonbons will do so without knowing the sinister history of their purchases, others, like the chocolate makers, will have known for at least two years, if not longer, that cocoa beans imported from the Ivory Coast — used to make nearly half the chocolate consumed in this country — are harvested in large part by children, some as young as 9, and many of whom are considered slaves, trafficked from desperately poor countries like Mali and Burkina Faso.

The most recent survey of conditions on West African cocoa farms, completed by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture for the U.S. Agency for International Development, estimated that nearly 300,000 children work in dangerous conditions on cocoa farms in the four countries surveyed — Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon — the vast majority of them in the Ivory Coast. The report, released in July 2002, says that of the 300,000 children, more than half (64 percent) are under 14 years old. Twelve thousand had no connection to the family on whose cocoa farm they toiled, but only 5,100 of them were paid for their work. Almost 6,000 were described as “unpaid workers with no family ties,” provoking advocates to refer to them as “slaves.” The rest work on their families’ farms, kept home from school to do punishing work during the all-important harvest seasons. The latter category are, in the definition of the International Labor Organization, child laborers.Full Story

For Additional Information Visit:
Stop Chocolate Slavery
Chocolate Company Scorecard 2009

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