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The Horrifying Truth About Avocados

The Horrifying Truth About Avocados

Avocados are a truly spectacular food. Packed full of good fats, carotenoids, folate, and yes, even cancer-fighting nutrients, some have argued that the avocado could be the world’s most perfect food. Just a single bite of this creamy, earthy fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) and you’ll find it difficult to argue with this superlative.

If it seems too good to be true, you might just be right. I recently learned that like diamonds, avocados have a dark and bloody side that almost no one knows about.

The avocado tree is native to Mexico and Central America, so it comes as no surprise that this region still produces most of the world’s supply. In Western Mexico, “avocado farms occupy vast stretches of land, and the rows of low-growing trees resemble the olive gardens of southern Europe,” writes Jan-Albert Hootsen for Vocativ.com. This idyllic setting indicates nothing of the sinister side of the avocado trade, however.

In Michoacán, a state in western Mexico, the avocado is commonly referred to as oro verde, green gold, because it yields more cash than any other crop—including marijuana. And anytime there’s money to be made, corruption isn’t far behind.

“A drug cartel known as the Caballeros Templarios, the Knights Templar, has infiltrated the avocado sector, and now controls the local trade, from production to distribution,” writes Hootsen. “The cartel derived from an earlier group of drug traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana…Not content to traffic marijuana, cocaine and heroin, La Familia set up a variety of extortion rackets in Michoacán. The avocado business was one of them.” Now, farmers must deal with constant extortion, and the reality that The Templarios could take over their plantations and packing plants whenever they want.

The cartel always gets what it wants, both from the avocado farmers and the government bodies that are supposed to regulate them. Through bribes and the threat of violence, Templarios have gained access to official lists of farmers, how much land they cultivate, and how much they produce. This way, the criminals know exactly how much money to demand from the farmers.

“Every link in the avocado production chain is a cash cow for the cartel, from the quadrilleros, or pickers (whose employment agencies are forced to pay $3.50 per worker per day), to those who buy, develop and sell plantations,” writes Hootsen. “The extortion racket is lucrative. In some municipalities, the estimated proceeds come to $3 million per year.”

The truly horrifying part is that unlike drugs and human trafficking (the other favorite pastimes of the cartel) we are all culpable. More than 80 percent of Michoacán’s avocados are exported to the United States. That means every time we crack open one of these precious green fruits, every time we dip a chip into a bowl of guacamole, we’re helping to fuel the cartel’s violent takeover of the avocado industry in Mexico.

The only way to avoid being part of this vicious cycle is to seek out domestically grown avocados, such as those from California, and to support farmers’ rights around the world.

Related:
Top 10 Reasons to Buy Organic
How to Keep Your Quinoa Consumption Ethical

Read more: Conscious Consumer, Food, News & Issues, , , , , , , , ,

Image via Thinkstock

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.

1556 comments

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10:21AM PDT on Aug 30, 2015

Thanks for the information

7:54AM PDT on Aug 30, 2015

I just read this article to my husband. I've been trying to explain to him why I buy what I buy and how it affects the farmers, etc., and this article really helped him understand.
So, what with all the corruption in Mexico, it's no wonder why the U.S. has so many people who risk their lives (take your pick: the government, the cartels, or human traffickers, or all of the above) to get here!!

4:41PM PDT on Aug 28, 2015

And avocados grown in California are watered with contaminated water (fracking) and harvested by illegal immigrants who often get deported the day before payday, so what's the difference? Either you buy avocados or you don't, end of story. It's not as if made in USA were some sort of guarantee that the respective workers are respected, get paid overtime, are allowed to join a labor union, or even get a paid vacation. So why harp around on foreign countries?

10:40PM PDT on Aug 27, 2015

Oh great, now avocados are in conflict with my belief system? Yikes! i'm more concerned with tariff and trade restrictions. Farmers in the USA are sometimes paid to NOT grow a certain crop, to ensure that we have to import that product from Country XYZ. For years, Chiquita Banana were not allowed to be sold directly in the USA: they had to be imported, instead of "home grown" because of trade agreements. Imported cars from Asia are actually imported as "car parts" because they were being assembled in/near Long Beach. There are so many ways to get around trade requirements. Sometimes the cartel is also known as tariff/trade/government negotiated restrictions. i'm more concerned that the standards for produce specified by the FDA for USA crops are more to our preference than imported foods. And yet, the trade agreements prohibit our choices: other countries do not have the same prohibition against the use of certain chemicals, herbicides or insecticides. Good to be aware .. thank you ... support USA products - whether food, textiles, appliances or other. We NEED the jobs to support our families and pay for the homes that just a few years ago, were literally taken from so very many people during the fall of the housing and job markets. True unemployment is still drastically high.

10:09PM PDT on Aug 27, 2015

Thanks for this article. As consumers, we need to keep our eyes open and try to steer the market towards a direction of ethic and fair treatment of labourers. I also believe that governments, both local and from commercial partner nations should do something to get rid of these not so obscure forces called cartels.

6:05PM PDT on Aug 27, 2015

Thanks for posting.

10:28AM PDT on Aug 24, 2015

thank you!

4:34AM PDT on Aug 19, 2015

Thanks.

6:31PM PDT on Aug 17, 2015

the US should find other countries to import avocados from.

1:10AM PDT on Aug 17, 2015

i don't understand how countrys accept it to be regulatet by cartells... well, maybe corruption :/

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