The hidden costs of Mexico's 'green gold'

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Whether they're mashed on toast, blended in a smoothie or scooped into guacamole, avocados have become a staple in American kitchens. And nearly all of them are Hass avocados grown in Michoacán, a rural state in southwest Mexico. Mexican avocado exports to the U.S. were worth some $2.8 billion in 2023, and demand keeps rising.

University of Iowa historian Viridiana Hernández Fernández is writing a book about the development of a global avocado industry centered in Michoacán. Although the crop has enriched growers, it has also driven deforestation, excessive water use and land grabs. But there are other tasty types of avocados available. Buying them could encourage Mexican growers to raise other varieties in addition to the omnipresent Hass.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Cities Editor

Harvesting avocados in Uruapan, in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

Avocados are a ‘green gold’ export for Mexico, but growing them is harming forests and waters

Viridiana Hernández Fernández, University of Iowa

Avocados are marketed as a superfood, but growing them for an expanding world market has turned a rural Mexican state into an unsustainable monoculture.

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