Avocado : not so green after all …
Avocado is full of vitamins, minerals and good fats … It is definitely pleasant for our taste buds and healthy for our body. In a salad or as guacamole, people absolutely love it !!
In my country (France) avocado is an exotic fruit. Until a few years back it was eaten on special occasions. Today it is found all year round in the foodstores (like salmon or foie gras, which used to be Christmas delicacies). And there’s the rub … This “super food” and the incredible properties it has to offers have disastrous human and environmental consequences.
Two recent French documentaries* on this subject made me realize the scope of the problem. Here are some of the grim realities that lie behind the avocado industry:
The avocado farms
The avocado trees need significant quantities of water and fertilizer. It takes 1000L of water to grow 3 fruits (around 1kg). Yet, this number pales in comparison to the 4L necessary to grow one almond, another trendy “super-food” and cosmetic ingredient.
In Chili (where access to water has been privatized), intensive avocado farming entails a massive deforestation and ground water depletion to the detriment of the local population as well as non-exporting farmers.
The same deforestation phenomena occur in Mexico, where heavy pesticide spreading has been linked to an increase in some diseases in the surrounding populated areas.
In Peru, one of the main producers, crops are grown on desert grounds, imposing drastic changes to the local environment.
The fruits are mostly imported from Peru, Chili, Mexico, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, Spain or the United-State. They travel thousands of kilometers to end up in our plates. On arrival, they are stored in ripening chambers (providing heat, ventilation, humidity) during several days before being put on the shelves. One can easily imagine the energy required to dispatch the fruits and make them edible in record time…
Making avocado trendy
The professionals of the sector (Hass avocado board, ProHass), spend millions of dollars each year to make avocado « sexy » and « healthy » (avocado recipes ready to be published in magazines or web sites, beauty tips, promotional video clips…). And it works : the global consumption keeps on rising every year. Imports of fresh avocados to the European market have increased from 186,000 tonnes in 2011 to 343,000 tonnes in 2015. This is four times less than the consumption in the United States. France is the third largest importer with a yearly consumption of 1,5kg per capita.
Green-gold for the cartels
Mexican cartels have now infiltrated the juicy green-gold industry by coercing some farmers to give away part of their profits as “taxes”, or by taking part in the farming activity.
Avocado and “new GMO’s”
The Avocado market is so successful that scientists are working on a “new GMO” variety which could circumvent the EU regulation on GMOs .
Any food trend implies overproduction and potentially scandalous consequences… It seems that keeping consumption local and in reasonable quantities remains the best solution for our health and our environment. Personal interest are met only when remaining in harmony with the collective interest. And for that to happen, it is essential to change our habits, check the origin of products, inform ourselves, select… But more importantly, let’s learn to forgo certain things…
*« Capital : exotisme et tradition : quand les cuisines du monde rapportent gros – l’avocat la ruée vers l’or vert » broadcasted on M6, and « L’avocat un fruit qui fait sa loi » d’Anne-Fleur Delaistre broadcasted on France 5).