Avocados Are Causing Trouble in Mexico, Is It Time We Rethink Our Obsession With the Fruit?
Maybe you start your day with an avocado toast, then you have an order of flautas con aguacate for lunch, and you finish your day with some guacamole alongside your tacos. The delicious and nutritious fruit is so ubiquitous in our everyday lives that oftentimes we don’t even realize just how much avocado we’re eating.
Turns out it’s a lot. So much so that our demand for the luscious fruit is straight up harming our planet and our communities.
Avocados are the ‘green gold’ wreaking havoc on our planet and communities across Latin America.
According to a recent piece from The Guardian, intensive avocado production —which is in full effect from Mexico to California — is causing severe environmental consequences, including “biodiversity loss, extreme weather conditions, [and] extensive soil degradation is on the brink of causing an entirely human-made environmental disaster.” And looking deeper into the facts, it really doesn’t look pretty.
Growing avocados is extremely water-intensive, with 60 gallons of water required to grow just one avocado. It’s a thirsty plant. It also has a giant carbon footprint. Shrubs and old trees are often taken down to provide avocado trees greater sunlight, contributing to deforestation, global warming and climate change. The loss of forest cover and other climate changes means the rate of arrival of the Monarch butterfly to Michoacán has also dropped.
In fact, just two small avocados have a CO2 footprint of nearly 850 grams, according to Carbon Footprint Ltd.
Many of the greatest effects are being felt in the most vulnerable communities.
Mexico’s Michoacán state is responsible for five out of 10 avocados produced globally. It’s the country’s leading crop, and the state’s economy is strongly dependent on avocados, bringing in a whopping $2.5 billion a year. But the industry is also sucking the state dry.
Around 9.5 billion liters of water are used daily – equivalent to 3,800 Olympic pools – requiring a massive extraction of water from Michoacán aquifers. Excessive extraction of water from these aquifers is having unexpected consequences, such as causing small earthquakes.
All of this is sad to think about considering that avocado originates from this region of Mexico. In fact, the word avocado comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl. For over 3,000 years, locals have relied on the fruit for nutrition. Indigenous tribes across the Americas learnt to cultivate avocado trees successfully and the fruit increasingly took on an important cultural role within their communities.
But now, with the popularity of avocados continuing to explode, many locals and Indigenous consumers can no longer afford to buy them, with the average price for one avocado hovering around $2 USD. In fact, avocados have even been blamed for the lack of home ownership among Millennials under 35 years old.
Chefs and restaurants around the world are starting to shy away from the now forbidden fruit.
Restaurants and chefs are starting to shun the once popular fruit. The Irish restaurateur JP McMahon in 2018 removed avocados from his restaurants, calling them the “blood diamonds of Mexico.” Some are going as far as to even remove the ever-popular guacamole from menus, and instead replacing it with dips made from pumpkin seed paste, Mexican tatume squash or roasted poblano peppers, and tomatillos.
So, what are some viable alternatives? And are they any good?
As more restaurants and foodie influencers encourage people to try alternatives, there are a variety of new recipes popping up.
“Parts of the food industry are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the issues we face as a result of intensive farming,” Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City, University of London, told the Guardian.
Some are suggesting users turn to avocado-free sustainable recipes. TikToker Calum Harris shared a ‘guacamole’ recipe that replaces the avocado with frozen peas, and, of course, went viral in the process.
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