The Price of Flowers

My op-ed piece on flower shops in the New York Times drew two letters to the editor.  One of them says, in part:

Much like the diamond trade, cut flowers are
certified or uncertified to inform retailers and consumers of the
conditions in which they were grown, cut and shipped (often from
countries with inexcusable enforcement of workers’ rights)….

Let’s reserve our moral outrage for the plight of the exploited, not the exploiters.

Oh, please.  First of all, it’s hardly reasonable to call a florist an exploiter.  Are we going to call grocers exploiters, too? 

And second, one of the major points of my book is that we should all buy certified flowers to make sure we’re supporting farms with good practices, no matter where they’re located.   That doesn’t change the point of the op-ed, which is that flower shops are beautiful and vital part of city life and have been for centuries.

And as a side note, there’s a bit of an uproar among industry insiders about why VeriFlora is getting all the media attention when there are other eco-labels around the world, including one in Colombia and one in Ecuador started by the growers associations in those countries. 

The reason seems obvious to me:  VeriFlora is the only label that actually appears on bouquets sold in the US.  Those other programs either don’t put a sticker on the bouquet at the retail level at all–or the sticker only goes on bouquets sold in other countries.  (and that doesn’t even address the fact that the standards vary significantly from one program to another, as this Associated Press article demonstrates. Not all eco-labels are created equal.) 

But really, what good does it do the American consumer to know that there’s an environmental certification program out there somewhere, but that the flowers certified through that program don’t have a label on them so you can’t find them?  We can buy coffee with a Fair Trade label, apples with a USDA Organic label, fish with a Marine Stewardship Council label, etc etc.  As consumers, we want to be able to vote with our dollars.   We can’t reward the good farms if the flowers from those farms don’t have a label on them.  Seems pretty simple to me.