My local Wal-Mart sells bouquets of Colombian flowers for $3.88.
That is pretty darn cheap. What used to be an unaffordable commodity for special occasions now becomes mainstream: I can afford to have fresh flowers in my house all the time, and so I do--for less than the price of a few cups of fancy coffee at the local coffee bar.
Having just read The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy, I also know that Wal-Mart is not making any kind of sacrifice in offering me this low, low price. It is able to offer this low, low price because it has driven down its own costs by demanding lower and lower prices from its suppliers.
I have seen Maria Full of Grace. And I have read reports on the abusive flower industry in Colombia and Ecuador. Apparently YouTube also has some amazing video interviews with flower workers (which I can't watch because I am still on dial-up and they just won't load coherently).
But I also know some actual Colombians. And they tell me that I should buy this Colombian export product in order to support the struggling Colombian economy. They say that in buying Colombian flowers I am supporting a Colombian industry that could be a real alternative to the narcotic crops that are so profitable in Colombia. (Wouldn't it be nice if my country's demand for imported flowers exceeded its demand for imported cocaine?)
So what to do?
Should I not buy flowers at all? Should I buy flowers only if I know they are grown in pesticide-free and humane conditions? (These would probably NOT be Colombian flowers or flowers from any developing economy.)
While I would love to buy flowers from Organic Bouquet, their prices are such that I could afford bouquets only a few times a year, for special occasions. No more weekly purchases. And their sources are probably not Colombian, since they demand sustainable, pesticide-free conditions.
Is it better to provide consistent support for a Colombian product---or occasional support for a (probably domestic) product that protects the environment and improves farm worker safety?