Child labor, war or pesticides for your Valentine?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There was a time, long ago, when a lover would buy diamonds, chocolate or roses for his beloved on Valentine's Day with a clear conscience.
But life has become more complicated.
For some, the romance is being overshadowed by concerns that the diamonds may have financed wars, that the cacao beans were harvested by children and that the roses were kept perfect with mists of pesticides.
Let's start with roses, especially the red roses traditionally used to show passion.
"Most roses sold in the U.S. are grown in Latin America. And they are grown in a way that uses a lot of chemicals," said Rene Ebersole, a senior editor of the environmental Audubon Magazine.
"DDT is used," she added, saying that workers who applied the pesticides often complained of irritated eyes and other ailments that they blamed on the chemicals.
And what about soft, melty bonbons, dusted with cocoa powder?
Ivory Coast, which grows 40 percent of the world's cocoa, has a persistent child labor problem, according to the 2006 State Department Human Rights report, which was released in March 2007.
"The controversy over child labor in the local cocoa sector continued," the report said, citing an earlier survey by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
That group had found that perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 children were trafficked to or within the country to work in the cocoa sector, the State Department said.
"The (institute's) research showed that approximately 109,000 child laborers worked in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in the country in what the study described as the worst forms of child labor," the State Department said.
Then there's the problem of blood diamonds, which refers to gems mined under brutal conditions and sold to support a war effort.
The problem is apparently one of the few things that Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush agree on.
Clinton issued an executive order in January 2001 barring Sierra Leone from exporting diamonds to the United States. When Liberia began to be used to get around the ban, Bush acted in 2001 to bar rough diamond imports from Liberia.
A mechanism called the Kimberley Process was supposed to help buyers identify conflict-free diamonds, but there is criticism that it has fallen short.
Sigh. Lingerie anyone?
(Editing by Sandra Maler )
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