VOLUME 6 - 2013-2014 - ISSUE 1

No Roses Without Thorns: Global Consumers of Cut Flowers as Political Actors

Prabhakar Singh

6 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 23 (2014).

As the colloquial name for cut flowers as “blood flowers” implies, the outsourced production of “blood flowers” is plagued by negative externalities, including child labor, health risks, soil and water pollution, sexual exploitation of women, and unfair distribution of water resources that shortchanges the tribal populations in Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Today consumers in developed countries increasingly view consumer choice as expressing their values and identities. Moreover, trade scholars believe trade restrictions could efficiently protect public morals, intellectual property, animal, human, and plant life, and ensure the proper sanitary and phytosanitary measures. A ban on cut flowers, a measure mandated by the GATT 1994 Article XX General Exceptions, will counteract some of the negative externalities of the cut flower trade. However, this article however argues that, within the context of a free market, it is the informed and compassionate consumers’ choice as political actors, and not the prohibitive provisions within trade law, that can most effectively eliminate the negative externalities of the cut flower trade. Besides, the cut flower trade yields positive externalities by providing jobs to men and women in Asia, Africa, and several Latin American countries. And, although a purely process-focused distinction may support a ban on the “blood flowers”, such a ban would result in job loss, subsequent destitution, starvation, and civilian deaths in developing countries, doing more harm than good.