A Rose Is [Not] a Rose

Charles Bergman
Audobon Magazine

Long the symbol of love, irresistible desire, and ephemeral beauty, the prickliest of flowers has never been so popular, so lucrative–or so toxic for the environment. But enterprising growers and marketers are working to turn the red rose green.

Between rows of tall, pale pink roses, he came at me like Darth Vader in a billowing cloud of vapors, his identity cloaked beneath a black face mask, hood, and plastic clothes. But the material coming out of the worker’s hose was a fog of agricultural chemicals.

“Venenos,” explained my guide, César Estacio. Poisons. Once a laborer on a rose farm like this, Estacio is now director of a support organization for workers in Cayambe, 50 miles north of Quito, Ecuador, a town rooted in agriculture, cattle ranching, and now roses... 

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