Holy guacamole! The shocking truth to avocados

Lily Reese

On Feb. 11, 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) banned the importation of avocados from Mexico. The ban occurred after U.S. health authority officials received threats involving a routine avocado inspection of the top producer of avocados: Michoacán Organics. Threats within the avocado industry are not uncommon and in years prior have also resulted in temporary bans on avocados from Mexico for the safety of their USDA officials. As the Guardian reported in a recent article, “The US Agricultural Department has…warned after an incident in 2019, in which a team of US inspectors was reportedly robbed by a gang at gunpoint, that further threats would prompt an immediate cessation of ‘program activities.’ The USDA did not follow through and gang violence still holds a clutch on the industry.

Due to the high consumption of avocados in the U.S., the 2022 ban was lifted 11 days after its announcement. However, the recent ban peels back the surface of a darker side to the avocado industry, beyond just the dangerous environments U.S. workers can be subjected to. 

Time and time again, the high demand for avocados has outweighed the importance of safe and environmentally friendly practices. With these practices, the avocado industry now symbolizes the rise of cartels and dangerous work environments. 

Around twenty years ago, the high-profit margins of the avocado trade attracted the interest of crime cartels, especially those in Michoacán, Mexico. These cartels have ignited violence and unsafe working conditions for food inspectors and workers themselves.

According to BBC News, in 2019, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel killed nine people in the hub of avocado distribution, leaving their bodies hanging from an overpass. After countless investigations and similar tragedies, authorities drew parallels between the murders and the growing cartel influence in the avocado industry. The imbalance of power between cartels and their workers creates unsafe work environments that are continuously fueled by the purchase of avocados.  


By purchasing avocados imported from companies like Michoacán Organics, Americans, California residents and even Redwood students are contributing to cartel power over avocados. Redwood students need to be more conscious of their food choices. Whether that means shopping locally or growing your own avocados, there are various preventive methods to avoid supporting this problematic industry. 

While violence plagues the industry, it isn’t the only rotten aspect of avocados. Environmentally, avocados are one of the most harmful fruits to the environment. Americans consume three times the average amount of avocados, making America responsible for a large amount of carbon emissions as well as the environmental damage it takes to produce and transport avocados. California being one of the top states to buy into these fruits poses the question of how our own community’s lack of consciousness is directly affecting others. 

According to a March 2022 Bark survey, 76 percent of the Redwood student population likes to eat avocados, of which the majority are likely supplied from Michoacán. According to Orange County Register, Michoacán supplies about 80 percent of the 60 million pounds of avocados eaten in the U.S. in a given week. This huge amount of avocado consumption leaves Americans partially responsible for any damage done by the fruit.

That environmental damage stems from the fact that avocados are responsible for land erosion and that the industry emphasizes the use of environmentally unfriendly practices to keep up with this demand. One of these practices is deforestation. In order to keep up with demand for the product, clearing out land and habitats is required. Deforestation is the main way for these industries to rapidly overuse valued land which also removes viable oxygen in a habitat, harming other organisms. 

Furthermore, avocados require a large amount of water during the production process. According to the World Forum, avocado farming uses around 9.5 billion liters of water daily to produce avocados – equivalent to 3,800 Olympic pools. Although choosing fruits and vegetables over meat products will always be the better choice, it is still important to acknowledge the impact our food choices have on the environment. But giving up this fruit altogether can be difficult. How can Redwood students change their food choices without giving up the fruit completely? 

The best option for Redwood students is to buy more locally grown avocados. Locally grown avocados hold the benefits of not being connected to cartels and have smaller carbon footprints because they are not shipped thousands of miles to reach the stands. The farmer’s markets that surround Marin County offer such opportunities. Some local markets include the ones at Marin Country Mart and the San Rafael Civic Center, both open on Sundays. California-grown avocados can also be found in grocery stores under the Hass variety (they are a smaller type of avocado that look more purple than green, but carry the same taste). These California-grown avocados still may carry the weight of the environmental issues, however, they ultimately hold a smaller carbon emission and don’t contribute to the abuse that occurs in the industry abroad. 

Avocados have bolstered the economy in Michoacán for the last decade and their practices have continuously proven detrimental. However, something needs to change in the environment as well as our society needs a solution and we need to act soon. An escape from major environmental damage can be limited and gang violence can be thwarted, starting with a choice of a smaller avocado or one without blood money involved. Your decision makes a difference, so make sure you are making the “ripe” decision to buy your avocados sustainably.