FoodHidden toll of avocado surge: From forest destruction to "slave labor" on plantations

Hidden toll of avocado surge: From forest destruction to "slave labor" on plantations

Avocado - Delicacies
Avocado - Delicacies
Images source: © Canva | pixelshot

11:22 AM EST, January 24, 2024

One of the attributes of avocados that has garnered much attention is their high calorie content. However, these calories do not come from unhealthy ingredients, but instead from the abundance of unsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are present in quantities optimal for human health. Surprisingly, despite these health benefits, many people are choosing to eliminate avocados from their diet.

Controversy Around Mexican Avocados

The 'avokadon’t' movement is chiefly critical of avocados from Mexico and Chile, which are the top producers of this fruit. The greater the demand, the greater the interest in cultivation.

Meeting the global demand involves clearing forests to make way for new avocado plantations. This process ends up destroying animal habitats and leads to soil erosion. A vast amount of pesticides are utilized in the process. These do not penetrate the avocado but they do seep into the soil, air, and water, negatively affecting the health of farmers, locals, as well as plants and animals.

Avocados More Profitable Than the Drug Trade

In a surprising turn of events, it has been found that avocado cultivation now fetches more earnings than cocaine production. As a result, a number of avocado plantations in Mexico have been seized by drug cartels, often leading to violent incidents - for example, farmers who refuse to submit to their demands often face fatal consequences. Working conditions on such plantations are nearly identical to slave labor.

Moreover, producing 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of avocados requires a huge 158.5 gallons (600 liters) of water, in stark contrast to only 0.26 gallon (1 liter) of water needed for the same weight in apples. This heavy water consumption by avocado plantations is causing a severe depletion of natural water resources, a problem that is particularly noticeable in Chile.

How to peel an avocado? Effective methods
How to peel an avocado? Effective methods© Getty Images

Choosing Avocados from Sustainable Sources

In spite of the controversies, the fact remains that avocados are incredibly beneficial for health and should form part of our diet. However, to balance our health needs and environmental ethics, we should pay attention to the origin of the avocados we purchase. If possible, we should opt for avocados sourced from Spain or Israel, and avoid buying those from Chile or Mexico. Such small individual contributions can collectively make a significant difference to our planet.

The shocking behind-the-scenes of avocado cultivation
The shocking behind-the-scenes of avocado cultivation© Pixabay
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