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From February 10, 2005

This Valentine’s Day, Go Organic
(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2005) In the Ecuadorian highlands, near the Equatorial center of the world, Hernan Chiriboga, PhD, gently pushes aside rows of chamomile, garlic and chili peppers and inspects his prize crop - organically grown red roses. With a mere eight acres of mostly roses, his “Biogarden La Pampa” is the world's first commercial-scale organic rose operation. Together with a handful of small to large-scale environmental growers in Colombia, South Africa, the Netherlands and California, Dr. Chiriboga's roses reach consumers via internet eco-florist OrganicBouquet.com.

Combined, the countries of Ecuador and Colombia produce nearly 70 percent of all flowers sold in the U.S., a market valued at nearly $17 billion in 2002. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic flowers alone grew to $8 million in 2003, an estimated 52 percent growth spurt from the previous year, with sales expected to grow 13 percent annually through 2008. Overall, the U.S. organic market is conservatively estimated to grown to more than $30 billion by 2007.

Along with his son Jorge, an agronomist with a post-graduate degree from Massey University in New Zealand, Dr. Chiriboga's innovative project may fundamentally transform an industry that has increasingly relied upon a broad spectrum of hazardous chemical pesticides. Instead of relying on synthetic and toxic chemicals to create the perfect rose, Biogarden sets precedent with an example of a pristine ecosystem: beneficial insects including wasps eat the aphids, while natural fertilizers - including composted old flowers - transform the warm, humid soils of the greenhouses into a hotbed of radiant colors and floral hues.

On the other hand, women in the conventional rose industry had more miscarriages than average and that more than 60 percent of all workers suffered headaches, nausea, blurred vision or fatigue, according to the International Labor Organization. Nearly 70% of the 50,000 rose workers are women. A small sample of roses analyzed by Mother Jones magazine, found the following pesticide residues on the flowers: organophosphate- Dimethoate, carbamate- Aldicarb, organochlorines- Captan, Bravo, Tedion, Iprodione, Procymidone.

"Growing flowers organically is very important because it is safer for farm workers and is good for the environment," says Organic Bouquet's founder and CEO Gerald Prolman. "The difference is our customers can express their affection as well as care for humankind and the Earth. We’ll keep at it until all flowers are green.”

Some of America's biggest green retailers seem to think that Mr. Prolman might be onto something. Select supermarket chains such as Wild Oats, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods regularly carry some organic flowers as part of their selection. You can buy organic roses, tulips and other flowers through the Organic Bouquet website at www.organicbouquet.com. Organic Bouquet’s selection is currently about 50% organic, which are clearly marked on the website.

Top Ten Reasons To Buy Organic Flowers
1. Organic flowers address the core purpose of organic production: to enrich the Earth. Your support encourages more growers to convert to organic practices and to reduce toxic chemical usage in the world!
2. Pesticides and other toxic chemicals used on flowers can affect the health of farm workers and florists. Without the proper protection, the toxic chemicals can spread onto the clothes and into the bodies of farm workers that in turn can increase exposure to their children. Florists who handle non-organic flowers have been known to develop dermatitis on their hands.
3. Buying organic flowers helps support local organic farming communities and organizations, which often have charitable, philanthropic motives for selling their flowers.
4. Organic flowers, according to many people, are more fragrant and last longer than non-organic ones.
5. On a spiritual, holistic level, organic flowers have been farmed in such ways that they retain the essence of flowers, as Mother Nature intended them to have.
6. Organic flowers are part of a natural, healthy lifestyle.
7. The toxic chemicals used on flower farms can poison groundwater and the soil. These chemicals also become part of the food chain, as animals such as birds will eat the sprayed plants.
8. Through evaporation, toxic pesticides and fertilizers that are sprayed on flower farms end up in the atmosphere. They then travel to other global areas to fall as rain or snow.
9. Every flower counts: Increasing sales of certified organic flowers gives the market notice that more organic flowers need to be grown, which makes more flower farms convert to using organic agricultural methods.
10. Toxic chemicals are NOT the way to say, "I love you."